The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of S.L. and A.L., Children, and Concerning L.L. and K.L., Respondent-Appellants.
Blanco County District Court No. 15JV3 Honorable John F.
A. Borchard, County Attorney, Meeker, Colorado, for
N.H. Ulrich, Guardian Ad Litem
Patrick R. Henson, Respondent Parents' Counsel, Longmont,
Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant L.L.
K. Streng, Georgetown, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant
1 In this dependency and neglect proceeding, K.L. (mother)
and L.L. (father) appeal from the judgment terminating their
parent-child legal relationships with S.L. and A.L. (the
children). Among the issues raised on appeal is an issue of
first impression, namely whether a parent is entitled to have
his or her counsel present when a trial court conducts an in
camera interview of a child in a dependency and neglect
proceeding. In Part III.A.2.a, we conclude that whether to
grant such a request is within a trial court's sound
discretion, based upon a number of case-specific
considerations. Based on our resolution of this issue and the
other claims raised on appeal, we affirm.
2 The parents came to the attention of the Rio Blanco County
Department of Human Services (Department) as a result of
concerns about the welfare of the children due to the
condition of the family home, the parents' use of
methamphetamine, and criminal cases involving the parents. In
January 2015, the parents voluntarily entered into an
agreement for services with the Department whereby they
retained physical custody of the children and committed to
individual and substance abuse counseling and monitoring.
3 In April 2015, after four months of voluntary services and
following reports of continued methamphetamine use, the
Department filed a petition in dependency or neglect for the
children. The petition alleged that the parents had used
illegal drugs which affected their ability to appropriately
parent the children and they had also failed to provide the
children with appropriate and safe housing.
4 The parents subsequently entered admissions to the
allegation that the children lacked proper parental care. The
court adjudicated the children dependent and neglected and
subsequently adopted treatment plans for the parents.
5 Later, the Department moved to terminate the parent-child
legal relationships with the children. After considering the
evidence presented at a three-day hearing, the trial court
terminated both mother's and father's parental
6 The parents separately appeal the trial court's
decision. We first address the parents' contentions that
the Department failed to use reasonable efforts to reunify
them with their children. Next, we address the separate
contentions father raises on appeal. We conclude that none of
the contentions merit reversal of the trial court's
7 The parents contend that the Department failed to make
reasonable efforts to reunify them with their children.
Father argues that (1) he should have been provided inpatient
treatment for his drug problem; (2) he was not provided with
sufficient time to complete the services required by his
treatment plan; and (3) the Department failed to accommodate
his scheduling needs with regard to the drug testing and
visitation. Mother argues that the Department (1) did not
provide her with sufficient time to complete essential
services required by her treatment plan; (2) failed to
provide proper referrals and case management services; and
(3) did not provide reasonable monitored sobriety testing. We
are not persuaded that the trial court erred in finding that
the Department had made reasonable efforts to ensure the
parents would be successful in completing their treatment
8 A court may terminate the parent-child legal relationship
pursuant to section 19-3-604(1)(c), C.R.S. 2017, if clear and
convincing evidence establishes that (1) an appropriate
treatment plan, approved by the trial court, has not been
complied with by the parent or has not been successful in
rehabilitating the parent; (2) the parent is unfit; and (3)
the conduct or condition of the parent is unlikely to change
within a reasonable time. People in Interest of
A.J.L., 243 P.3d 244, 251 (Colo. 2010).
9 The state must make reasonable efforts to prevent out-of-
home placement of an abused or neglected child and to reunite
the family. §§ 19-1-103(89), 19-3-100.5(1), C.R.S.
2017; see also People in Interest of S.M.A.M.A., 172
P.3d 958, 963 (Colo.App. 2007). Such reasonable efforts must
include screening, assessments, the development of an
appropriate treatment plan, the provision of information and
referrals to available public and private assistance
resources, placement services, and visitation services, all
as determined necessary and appropriate in a particular case.
§§ 19-3-100.5(5), -208(2)(b), C.R.S. 2017;
People in Interest of A.D., 2017 COA 61, ¶ 32.
10 A treatment plan is appropriate if it "is reasonably
calculated to render the [parent] fit to provide adequate
parenting to the child within a reasonable time and . . .
relates to the child's needs." § 19-1-103(10);
see also People in Interest of K.B., 2016 COA 21,
¶ 13. The appropriateness of a parent's treatment
plan is "measured by its likelihood of success in
reuniting the family and by the extent to which its
requirements were realistic in light of the facts existing at
the time it was adopted." People in Interest of
J.M.B., 60 P.3d 790, 792 (Colo.App. 2002).
11 It is the parent's responsibility to comply with the
treatment plan. Id. at 791. Absolute compliance is
not required. People in Interest of C.L.I., 710 P.2d
1183, 1185 (Colo.App. 1985). However, partial compliance, or
even substantial compliance, may not be sufficient to render
the parent fit. People in Interest of D.L.C., 70
P.3d 584, 588 (Colo.App. 2003).
12 "The credibility of witnesses, the sufficiency,
probative effect and weight of the evidence, and the
inferences and conclusions to be drawn therefrom are all
within the province of the [trial] court . . . ."
E.S.V. v. People, 2016 CO 40, ¶ 24. We will not
disturb the trial court's findings unless they are so
clearly erroneous as to find no support in the record.
Parents' Treatment Plans
13 The parents' treatment plans were essentially
identical and required the following action steps:
• The parents will cooperate with all medical,
psychiatric, and parenting evaluations and provide honest
reporting of problems with the family unit.
• The parents will attend their treatment sessions and
will not be tardy, cancel, or reschedule more than one
session in a one-month period.
• The parents will address current and past substance
abuse issues and will be able to identify the reasons and
motivation behind their substance abuse.
• The parents will submit up to three random and
observed drug screens per week.
• The parents will participate in weekly, supervised
visits with the children and will comply with the parameters
for visitation. Visitations will progress to unsupervised and
• The parents will attend Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics
Anonymous (AA/NA) meetings a minimum of once per week.
• The parents will make relationship choices that
prioritize the safety and well-being of their children.
• The parents will demonstrate the ability to provide
sufficient financial and household management resources to
support their children.
• The parents will verbalize and demonstrate their
understanding of criteria that must be maintained for the
family to become reunified.
Approximately six months before the termination hearing, the
Department modified mother's treatment plan at
mother's request to clarify certain objectives. The
modified treatment plan continued to emphasize mother's
need to address substance abuse issues and included a
provision regarding relapse prevention skills. It also
included a component requiring mother to reduce her anxiety
by participating in specialized therapy, learning to identify
her triggers, and increasing her coping skills. Finally, it
provided that mother would participate in bimonthly
couple's therapy to improve her communications skills
Services Offered to the Parents
15 Pursuant to the parents' voluntary agreement and
treatment plans, the Department provided numerous services to
the parents, including substance abuse therapy, therapeutic
visitation supervision, drug abuse monitoring, and a parental
capacity evaluation. The Department also provided counseling
for the children.
16 As the trial court noted, the Department used drug testing
to determine if the parents were complying with the treatment
plans' objectives regarding substance abuse. Drug testing
was accomplished by having the parents submit to random drug
tests up to three days per week. On a designated day, the
parents would ...