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In re Parental Rights as to S.L.

Supreme Court of Nevada

August 2, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS AS TO S.L.; N.R.B.; H.R.B.; AND W.C.B.
v.
STATE OF NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES; S.L.; N.R.B.; H.R.B.; AND W.C.B., MINORS, Respondents. DONALD B., Appellant, IN THE MATTER OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS AS TO S.L.; N.R.B.; H.R.B.; AND W.C.B. MELISSA L., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES; S.L.; N.R.B.; H.R.B.; AND W.C.B., MINORS, Respondents.

          Consolidated appeals from a district court order terminating appellants' parental rights as to their four children. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Cynthia N. Giuliani, Judge.

          Law Offices of Michael I. Gowdey and Michael I. Gowdey, Las Vegas, for Appellant Melissa L.

          Turco & Draskovich, LLP, and Robert M. Draskovich, Las Vegas, for Appellant Donald B.

          Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Janne M. Hanrahan, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent Nevada Department of Family Services.

          Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Inc., and Stephen J. Dahl and Amy B. Honodel, Las Vegas, for Respondent S.L.

          Morris Anderson and Lauren D. Calvert, Las Vegas, for Respondents N.R.B., H.R.B., and W.C.B.

          BEFORE CHERRY, PARRAGUIRRE and STIGLICH, JJ.

          OPINION

          CHERRY, J.

         Appellants' parental rights were terminated because their oldest child was physically and mentally abused over a period of years while in appellants' home, the younger children witnessed the abuse and were instructed to lie about it, and appellants failed to address the abuse in therapy and continued to insist that the child's injuries were self-inflicted. On appeal, appellants argue that termination of parental rights based on their refusal to admit to the abuse violated their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. We conclude that although appellants cannot be compelled to admit to a crime, they can be required to engage in meaningful therapy designed to ensure the children's safety if returned to the home. Because appellants did not engage in meaningful therapy and did not demonstrate the insight and behavioral changes necessary to protect the children from future abuse, we conclude that there was no violation of their Fifth Amendment rights. We further conclude that substantial evidence supports the district court's findings of parental fault and that termination was in the children's best interests.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Appellants Donald B. and Melissa L. have four children: S.L., N.R.B., H.R.B., and W.C.B.[1] In December 2013, then-fifteen-year-old S.L. appeared at school with a black eye and disclosed to a friend that Donald had hit her. When Child Protective Services (CPS) interviewed S.L., she claimed that she had hit her eye on a cabinet when unloading the dishwasher. A subsequent investigation revealed that S.L. had multiple abrasions and bruises that were consistent with abuse. All four children were removed from the home and placed in the custody of respondent Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) in January 2014. The children were later placed in their current foster home in May 2014. Once in foster care, the children began to make disclosures to their foster mother about the nature and extent of the abuse S.L. endured while in appellants' home.

         DFS filed a protective custody petition alleging that the children were in need of protection because Donald physically abused S.L., Melissa knew of the ongoing abuse but failed to protect S.L., and the three younger children were unsafe in the home. The petition also alleged that Donald had been convicted of felony manslaughter and corporal punishment of a child for the death of his infant child in the 1980s.

          Donald and Melissa entered pleas of no contest to the petition and were given court-approved case plans. Donald's case plan noted that Donald denied abusing S.L. and required that he acknowledge that S.L. was physically abused and the emotional damage that it has caused the children, provide a home free from physical abuse, complete physical abuse classes and follow all recommendations, show behavioral changes, and develop an appropriate discipline plan. Melissa's case plan noted that she feels that S.L. is to blame for the family's problems and required that Melissa complete non-offending parenting classes and follow all recommendations, and that she acknowledge that S.L. was physically abused and identify where she did not provide adequate protection.

         Donald and Melissa engaged in the requirements of their case plans including an assessment at Red Rock Psychological Services, successful completion of the ABC Therapy program, and participation in individual therapy at Healthy Minds. The assessments from Red Rock found both parents at a high risk for physical abuse/neglect recidivism and recommended individual therapy to address Donald's abuse and Melissa's position of denial. Both parents continued to deny that Donald had abused S.L., and they insisted that the child's injuries were self-inflicted. In the meantime, a criminal case was filed against appellants, and the criminal court entered an order for no contact between appellants and the children. Recorded calls between appellants while incarcerated on the criminal charges contained disparaging ...


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