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People ex rel. M.S.

Supreme Court of South Dakota

April 2, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA IN THE INTEREST OF M.S. AND K.S., MINOR CHILDREN, AND CONCERNING N.S. AND M.S., RESPONDENTS

Considered on Briefs March 13, 2014.

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. THE HONORABLE LAWRENCE E. LONG, Judge.

MARTY J. JACKLEY, Attorney General, ANN HOLZHAUSER, Special Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for petitioner and appellee State of South Dakota.

JULIE HOFER, Minnehaha County Office, of the Public Advocate, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for respondent and appellant Father M.S., #26799 & #26801.

MARGARET V. GILLESPIE, Gubbrud, Haugland & Gillespie, Prof. L.L.C., Alcester, South Dakota, Attorneys for respondent and appellant Mother N.S., #26798 & #26800.

KONENKAMP, Justice. GILBERTSON, Chief Justice, and ZINTER, SEVERSON, and WILBUR, Justices, concur.

OPINION

Page 367

KONENKAMP, Justice

[¶1] N.S. (Mother), age twenty-seven, and M.S. (Father), age twenty-six, appeal the circuit court's termination of their parental rights to their biological children -- M.S. (daughter), age two, and K.S. (son), age one (collectively, " children" ).

Background

[¶2] Mother has four children.[1] Each has seen interventions by the Department of Social Services (DSS). DSS's investigation of Mother began in March 2010, when she was pregnant with her older daughter. DSS received a referral from the Carroll Institute that Mother was using marijuana while pregnant. Her urinalysis (UA) results had shown off-the-charts readings for THC (over 2000 nanograms) and a blood alcohol content of .184. Concerned for the wellbeing of her unborn older daughter, DSS placed Mother on involuntary commitment (IVC) hold. At a home visit on April 12, 2010, a DSS specialist observed that Mother's older son had substantial bruising along his jaw bone and scratches under his chin. Mother asserted that the maternal grandmother was the source of these bruises. DSS took her older son and Mother to Sanford Hospital. Although the source of the bruises was never determined, DSS substantiated Mother's neglect of her older son based on her admission that she did not seek medical care for his bruises for over eight hours. Her older son was placed in Child Protection and an abuse and neglect petition was filed on April 23, 2010. In accord with the IVC, the court ordered Mother, who was eight-months pregnant, be admitted into New Start Treatment Center on May 4, 2010. But Mother absconded from New Start within hours of arriving by cutting out the screen on her window and jumping out. Her whereabouts were unknown thereafter. She later reported giving birth to her older daughter on May 28, 2010, in the Detroit, Michigan area. The petition was

Page 368

eventually dismissed when Judge Kathleen Caldwell ordered the older son to be placed in his father's custody in Detroit on June 17, 2010.

[¶3] DSS began receiving reports again on November 4 and December 9, 2010, of Mother neglecting older daughter's " severe diaper rash" and Mother being given a fat lip by Father while she was four-months pregnant with her daughter. Mother denied both reports. Soon after, DSS prepared an initial family assessment on Mother and Father. Around this time, Mother and Father were convicted of false impersonation. They received suspended sentences and were placed on probation. In early 2011, DSS received reports from the Children's Inn that Mother was using alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy while pregnant and failed to obtain prenatal care. DSS again obtained an IVC against Mother in February 2011, but she absconded to Kansas. On March 30, 2011, Mother was located in Kansas with Father. She refused to participate in treatment and was extradited to South Dakota for violating the terms of her probation. When her daughter was born on May 13, 2011, both Mother and Father were in jail. The daughter tested positive for 65 nanograms of THC at birth. A month later, DSS met with Mother, who ...


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