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In the Interest of K.M.

January 24, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for O'Brien County, David C. Larson, District Associate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mullins, J.

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

A mother appeals from a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to four children. The mother contends the State failed to present clear and convincing evidence of grounds for termination, termination was not in the children's best interest, the court should have granted additional time to work toward reunification, and statutory exceptions preclude termination. We affirm.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings

The mother and father are married to each other and have four children together: K.M. (born 2005), D.M. (born 2007), J.M. (born 2007), and C.M. (born 2010). Their relationship has been riddled with significant substance abuse issues, including the abuse of alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and prescription drugs. Reflecting on his relationship with the mother, the father stated, "We used [drugs] all the time and it was everything."

Both parents have a long history with the Department of Human Services (DHS). The mother's parental rights to her first child-a child not at issue in the present case-were terminated because of substance abuse issues. From March 2006 to July 2007, DHS filed three founded and two unfounded child protective assessments against the parents involving concerns of domestic violence and substance abuse.

In August 2010, DHS investigated reports of domestic violence and child abuse. After a domestic altercation between the parents, the father grabbed K.M. and left bruises on the child's arms. The mother then took the children to a safe home. When police investigated the allegations, they found the father sleeping in a camper outside the family residence because the home did not have working utilities. Police discovered drug paraphernalia in the father's possession, and he admitted to using drugs with the mother in the family home.

On October 20, 2010, the children were adjudicated children in need of assistance. The parents did not contest the adjudication. The court placed the children with DHS for the purposes of foster family care placement.

On November 15, 2010, the mother was discharged from New Life Treatment Center after voluntarily spending over a month and a half in treatment. She agreed to work on supervision, substance abuse, mental health, and domestic violence issues identified in the case. The mother eventually moved into a transitional housing program in early 2011.

DHS placed D.M. and J.M. with the mother on April 8, 2011, for a trial period. On April 20, 2011, the mother had an episode at a court review hearing where she was loud, flopping around on the floor, and making suicidal threats. As a result, she was committed to a local psychiatric unit, and the children were removed from her care. D.M. and J.M. were placed with the maternal grandparents. On April 25, 2011, K.M. and C.M. were placed into relative care with the maternal aunt and uncle.

In June 2011, the mother alleged the father brought men into her home and raped her. She reported feeling like she was pregnant with twins, and indicated she could feel babies moving around inside her. She was also suspicious that her home was being watched, or bugged. She was again committed to a psychiatric unit. She was then discharged to a mental health institute with concerns about hygiene and guarded, suspicious, paranoid, and delusional behavior.

A June 2011 psychological evaluation revealed the mother has "severe and longstanding mental health issues." The evaluation indicated the mother is morbidly obese, has bipolar disorder with severe manic states, has borderline personality traits, struggles with polysubstance dependence, and is involved in an abusive relationship with her husband, the children's father. After the evaluation, the clinical psychologist "did not feel that [the mother] was mentally stable to have her children back and that she is not able to take care of herself much less parent five young children." The psychologist also reported that,

Due to the fact that [the mother] is not medication compliant, has longstanding mental health issues that she has not taken care of, is unemployed, is financially unstable, and is medically unstable, the examiner would in no way recommend that she have custody of her children. Also it appears that it will be a very poor ...

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