The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of D.B., a Child, and Concerning A.C., Respondent-Appellant.
and County of Denver Juvenile Court No. 15JV1149 Honorable
Laurie A. Clarke, Judge
Kristin M. Bronson, City Attorney, Laura Grzetic Eibsen,
Assistant City Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for
Meinster, Guardian Ad Litem
Stephen D. Benson, L.L.C., Stephen D. Benson, Colorado
Springs, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant
1 In this proceeding governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act
of 1978 (ICWA), A.C. (mother) appeals the trial court's
judgment terminating her parent-child legal relationship with
D.B. (the child). We decide whether an expert must expressly
opine as to whether the child is likely to suffer serious
emotional or physical damage in the parent's care to
satisfy a required ICWA statutory finding. Because we
conclude that expert testimony does not need to recite the
specific statutory language, we affirm the judgment.
Dependency and Neglect Case
2 In July 2015, the Department of Human Services of the City
and County of Denver (Department) initiated a dependency and
neglect proceeding and assumed temporary custody of the child
after he tested positive for marijuana at birth. Because
mother and M.B. (father) each reported that they were members
of the Navajo Nation and believed the child was eligible for
membership, the Department sent notice of the proceeding to
the Navajo Nation.
3 Less than a month later, the court adjudicated the child
dependent and neglected and adopted a treatment plan for
mother. It also returned custody of the child to the parents.
4 However, in early September 2015, mother left the child
with an acquaintance while she went to a casino. When she
returned, she had to be taken to detox and could not remember
with whom she had left the child. After the Department
located the child, the court again placed the child in the
5 Three months later, the Navajo Nation verified that the
child was eligible for enrollment and began participating in
6 The Department subsequently moved to terminate the
parent-child legal relationship between mother and the child.
Following a hearing in October 2016, the trial court found,
among other things, that continued custody of the child by
one of the parents would likely result in serious emotional
or physical damage to the child due to the parents'
extensive substance abuse, extensive domestic violence, lack
of housing, and lack of income to meet the child's needs.
Consequently, it terminated mother's parental rights.
Termination of Parental Rights
7 Mother contends that the trial court erred in terminating
her parental rights in the absence of testimony from a
qualified expert witness that continued custody of the child
by mother would likely result in serious emotional or