WI Court of Appeals – District III
Case Name: Douglas County Department of Health & Human Services v. J.S., et al.,
Case No.: 2021AP1123
Officials: HRUZ, J.
Focus: Termination of Parental Rights
Jessica appeals from an order terminating her parental rights (TPR) to her daughter, and an order denying her motion for postdispositional relief. Jessica contends that the Douglas County Department of Health & Human Services (the County) presented insufficient evidence for the jury to find that she was an unfit parent.
Specifically, Jessica argues that the County failed to make a reasonable effort to provide the court-ordered services that were necessary for her to meet the requirements of the dispositional order finding her daughter a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS). Jessica further argues that the County failed to abide by either Wisconsin or federal guidelines establishing best practices for creating a family interaction plan in CHIPS cases, thereby preventing the County from making a reasonable effort to provide Jessica with the services ordered by the court, as required in WIS. STAT. § 48.415(2)(a)2.b. On these bases, Jessica argues that she should be granted a new trial, or that her CHIPS case should be reopened for the County to provide her these court-ordered services.
We conclude that the County presented sufficient evidence at trial on the many ways in which it made a reasonable effort to provide Jessica with court-ordered services, and the jury’s verdict was therefore supported by credible evidence. Additionally, the Wisconsin and federal standards that Jessica identifies do not control the jury’s analysis of whether the County has made a reasonable effort to provide Jessica with the services ordered by the court. We reject the remainder of Jessica’s claims because they are premised on her failed evidentiary challenge. These claims include that her attorney was ineffective for not challenging the sufficiency of the evidence at trial, and that a new trial should be granted in the interest of justice because the jury was not presented with all of the relevant evidence. Accordingly, we affirm the TPR order, as well as the order denying Jessica’s motion for postdispositional relief.