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In the Interest of R.H.

February 13, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF R.H., MINOR CHILD, T.L., MOTHER, APPELLANT, M.H., FATHER, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J. Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.

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

A mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

A mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child, born in 2011.

I. Mother

The mother seeks reversal of the juvenile court's termination decision on the grounds that (A) the Department of Human Services (DHS) did not make reasonable efforts to reunite her with the child and (B) the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying her request for an extension of time.*fn1 On our de novo review, we disagree with both contentions. See In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000) (setting forth the standard of review).

A. Reasonable Efforts

The department is obligated to make reasonable efforts towards reunification. Iowa Code § 232.102(7) (2011); C.B., 611 N.W.2d at 493. This obligation is "a part of its ultimate proof the child cannot be safely returned to the care of a parent." C.B., 611 N.W.2d at 493.

According to department reports, the agency became aware of this child "through a previous DHS case where there were protective concerns regarding chronic instability and [the mother and father's] volatile relationship with one another." That case, in a different county, resulted in the termination of the mother's parental rights to two older children.

While the first case was pending, the mother gave birth to the child involved in this proceeding. The department immediately facilitated the mother and child's placement at a transitional housing facility that provided a variety of supportive services, including individual counseling, day care for the child, and parent-skills training. Parents who followed the rules of the facility were allowed to remain for up to two years. To retain the child in her care, the mother was required to follow the rules.

The mother failed in this obligation, accumulating close to the number of violations that would have resulted in her discharge. A service provider expressed particular concern with the need to prompt her to attend to the basic needs of her child.

Approximately four months after her admission, the mother left the facility and moved into a mobile home with the father of the child. The child was placed in foster care.

The mother lost her access to publicly-funded health insurance and discontinued individual counseling. The department assisted her with obtaining county funding for individual counseling services, but she did not follow through. The department also provided supervised visits, food assistance, and parent-skills training. The mother claims these efforts were insufficient in several respects.

First, she asserts the department failed "to increase parent-child visitation." To the contrary, the department afforded the mother two four-hour visits a week. The department offered to add a third weekly visit closer to where the child lived to minimize the travel time for the child. The mother declined this offer on the ground she lacked funds to make the trip. The service provider ...


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