This summary also appears under Termination of Parental Rights
Issues: Juvenile guardianship; MCL 712A.19a; Appointment of a guardian to avoid termination of parental rights; In re Mason; Proof of parental unfitness in termination proceedings; In re B & J; Due process; In re Rood; Reed v. Reed; AFT MI v. State; Procedural due process; In re Brock; Substantive due process; Whether the action was so arbitrary that it would "shock the conscience"; Mettler Walloon, LLC v. Melrose Twp.; Credibility of witnesses; In re Miller; Reasonable reunification efforts; In re LE; Whether the respondent benefitted from services; In re Frey; Best interests of the children; In re Olive/Metts Minors; Failure to develop an argument; Mitchell v. Mitchell
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)
Case Name: In re Strum
e-Journal Number: 58160
Judge(s): Wilder, Saad, and K.F. Kelly
The court held that the trial court did not err in placing the respondent-mother's teenage daughter, TK, with the foster mother in a juvenile guardianship pursuant to MCL 712A.19a(7)(c) after TK was made a temporary ward of the court. The trial court adopted the DHS's recommendations and changed TK's permanency plan from reunification to a juvenile guardianship with her foster mother. On appeal, the court rejected respondent's argument that the guardianship violated her due process rights because it constituted a de facto termination of parental rights without establishing, by clear and convincing evidence, a statutory ground for termination. It agreed that, "if the appointment of a juvenile guardianship were the equivalent of a termination of parental rights, to comply with due process," the DHS "would have been required to prove parental unfitness, i.e., statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence." However, the court concluded that "the appointment of a juvenile guardianship is not tantamount to a de facto termination of parental rights." Thus, the DHS "was not required to prove statutory grounds for termination of parental rights by clear and convincing evidence." Further, it found that respondent "failed to establish a violation of her right to due process before the appointment of the juvenile guardianship." It found she was denied neither procedural due process nor substantive due process. "While respondent had a due process liberty interest in caring for her daughter, she has failed to demonstrate plain error in her claim that the appointment of a juvenile guardianship amounted to a de facto termination of parental rights without due process of law." The court also rejected her argument that the trial court should have instead considered as the permanency plan continuing TK in long-term foster care or, alternatively, returning her to respondent's home. "In light of TK's wishes and the clinician's assessment that respondent was unlikely to make significant gains, it was not clear error to conclude that returning TK to respondent's care or adopting long-term foster care were not dispositions in TK's best interests. Moreover, the appointment of a guardian would allow TK the 'certainty' that the therapist indicated was necessary for the child's well-being, but still leave open the possibility, for respondent to have contact with her daughter." Finally, the court rejected her claim that the trial court clearly erred when it concluded that reasonable efforts were made toward reunification. The fact "that she was denied contact with TK in an unsupervised setting did not prove a failure to make reasonable efforts." While she "may have desired to have unsupervised contact with TK, the evidence establishes it would not have been beneficial to TK's recovery." Affirmed.
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