In re J.L.

770 N.W.2d 853 (2009)

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In re J.L.

Michigan Supreme Court
770 N.W.2d 853 (2009)

Facts

Sixteen-year-old Cheryl Lee (defendant) was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (tribe). Lee was a delinquent child who experienced abuse and neglect. Lee was living in foster care and receiving services from Child Protective Services (CPS) (plaintiff) when she became pregnant. In 1999, Lee gave birth to J.L., who was also a member of the tribe. Lee abused and neglected J.L. and subsequently lost custody. As required by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the state made active reunification efforts to help Lee become a fit parent. Lee regained custody of J.L. and then gave birth to two more children. CPS continued to provide services to Lee to help her become a fit parent, but she neglected J.L. and the other children, who were then removed from her custody. Having unsuccessfully provided every possible service to Lee, CPS closed J.L.’s case in 2005. The tribal court terminated Lee’s parental rights to two of her children in June 2006. Lee then gave birth to a fourth child. CPS filed a petition to terminate Lee’s rights to the fourth child because CPS had no more services to offer Lee. The tribal court terminated Lee’s parental rights to her fourth child in January 2007. CPS filed a petition to terminate Lee’s rights to J.L. in July 2007. At trial, caseworkers testified that from 1999 through 2005, they provided extensive services to Lee but her parenting skills did not improve. A qualified expert witness testified that CPS provided active and reasonable efforts to prevent terminating Lee’s rights and that Lee’s continued custody would seriously harm J.L. The trial court terminated Lee’s parental rights to J.L. Lee appealed, arguing that ICWA required CPS to provide active reunification efforts each time it filed a petition to terminate parental rights. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that CPS provided timely, active efforts that satisfied ICWA and affirmed the termination of parental rights. Lee appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Corrigan, J.)

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