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People in the Interest of My.K.M.

2021 COA 33. No. 20CA0695.  Dependency and Neglect—Indian Child Welfare Act—Termination of Parent-Child Legal Relationship.

March 11, 2021

The juvenile court terminated mother’s and father’s parental rights after a hearing.

On appeal, mother argued that the juvenile court erred by failing to apply the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) standards to the proceeding until the beginning of the termination hearing, despite mother’s prompt disclosure that she is a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe. Tribal membership, not enrollment, determines the ICWA’s applicability. Here, at the temporary custody hearing, a representative of the Colville Confederated Tribes (Tribe) appeared and confirmed that mother was an enrolled member of the Tribe. The representative testified that the children would also be considered members, though she could not verify whether they were eligible for enrollment. Despite the juvenile court’s failure to follow the ICWA’s requirements from the early stages of the case, the Tribe participated in the termination proceedings and the juvenile court applied the ICWA’s provisions when it terminated the parents’ parental rights. Therefore, the juvenile court did not err.

Mother also argued that the Denver Department of Human Services (department) did not make sufficient active efforts to provide her employment services, housing assistance, or services specific to her Tribe. The record shows that the department required mother to have legal income adequate to support herself and the children but failed to offer her any services, even though mother requested job training and the court ordered the department to provide that service. Therefore, the juvenile court erred by finding that the department made active efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs for mother. Because the failure to make active efforts warrants reversal, the Court of Appeals declined to address mother’s remaining contentions.

Father argued that the juvenile court erred by finding that his treatment plan was appropriate because the plan did not address his mental health needs. However, the record reflects that father did not follow the plan’s recommendations by not completing a psychological evaluation. Under these circumstances, father’s treatment plan adequately addressed his mental health needs to the extent possible. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not err.

Father also argued that the juvenile court erred by finding that the department had made active efforts to assist him. However, sufficient evidence supports the court’s finding, so it did not err.

The judgment terminating mother’s parent-child legal relationships with the children was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The judgment terminating father’s parent-child legal relationships with the children was affirmed.

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

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