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People in the Interest of A.S.L.

2022 COA 146. No. 22CA0723. Dependency and Neglect—Allocation of Parental Responsibilities—Out-of-Home Placement—Reasonable Efforts to Reunify the Family.

December 22, 2022

The Weld County Department of Human Services (Department) filed a petition in dependency and neglect concerning the child. Mother admitted the allegations, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected, and the Department placed him in foster care. The juvenile court adopted a treatment plan for mother that required her to engage in parenting time with the child. Several months later, the foster parents intervened in the case. The Department and the child’s parents entered into a stipulation allocating parental responsibilities (APR) to the foster parents, but the juvenile court continued the APR hearing because the intervenors had not signed the stipulation. At the beginning of the continued hearing, mother withdrew her agreement to the stipulation. The juvenile court proceeded to a contested APR hearing and ultimately granted APR for the child to the foster parents.

On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court did not make sufficient findings and did not require the Department to prove that it made reasonable efforts to reunify the family and avoid out-of-home placement of the child. The Department has a statutory obligation to provide reasonable efforts to reunify the family and avoid a child’s out-of-home placement even when the juvenile court, in lieu of terminating a parent’s rights, enters an APR to a nonparent. An appellate court reviews de novo the court’s ultimate conclusion regarding whether a child protection agency’s actions in a dependency and neglect case satisfied its reasonable efforts obligations. Here, the juvenile court made no specific findings regarding reasonable efforts at the continued APR hearing. However, the record shows that the Department referred mother to (1) services she needed to complete to meet the court’s requirements for reinstating her visitation; (2) urinalysis testing, substance abuse and mental health evaluations, and an inpatient substance abuse program; and (3) two therapeutic visitation facilities and at least one supervised visitation provider. Therefore, the record demonstrates that the Department made reasonable efforts to ensure mother had adequate visitation. The record further shows that mother did not engage in these services. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not err.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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