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In the Interest of L.C.

April 10, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF L.C., D.S., S.S., J.S., AND K.S., MINOR CHILDREN, R.S., MOTHER, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

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

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

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her children. She contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify her with her children. She also contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination and that termination is not in the children's best interests. Finally, the mother contends the juvenile court abused its discretion in failing to appoint an attorney to represent each of the children in the termination proceedings.

The State proved that, despite the offer and receipt of services to avoid termination, the children cannot be safely returned to the mother's care. Termination is also in the children's best interest. The mother cannot show the juvenile court abused its discretion in failing to appoint an attorney to represent each of the children in the termination proceedings. Accordingly, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The five children at issue are all over the age of ten. In 2005, it was learned that the mother's husband (also the father of four of the children) had sexually abused four of the children. The children were adjudicated to be in need of assistance (CINA), and the case was closed in August of 2006.

The children next came to the attention of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in August 2007, after the police were called to the mother's house due to a report she was suicidal. Because the mother was willing to cooperate with mental health services and services recommended by the DHS, no CINA proceedings were initiated.

However, in September 2007, the DHS received another report about the mother's mental health and her ability to care for the children. It was alleged that the mother was suicidal and had asked one of the children to bring her a knife so she could kill herself. The mother reported that she had just broken up with her boyfriend, R.A., who she stated drank a lot, was verbally abusive, and took the children's prescription medication. The children reported R.A. was physically abusive to them. Safety and crisis plans were developed.

In October 2007, the DHS received a report from the school regarding the mother's wish to transfer the children to a school in Oxford Junction, where she was planning to move to live with a man she had met on the Internet. She and all five children were planning to live in a one-bedroom trailer with the man and his mother. However, the mother's plan changed when the man's parole officer would not allow them to move in.

A few days after the mother's plan to move fell through, she informed the DHS that she had exaggerated the concerns about her prior relationship with R.A., which she then wished to resume by allowing R.A. to move back into the home. At that time, a CINA petition was filed regarding the five children. The parties agreed the children were CINA in February 2008, but asked the court to suspend judgment pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.100 (2007).

Concerns existed about the mother's supervision of the children. Evidence shows that the children were touching one another inappropriately and the mother failed to follow through with the recommendations that she supervise them while bathing, changing clothes, or playing upstairs.

The mother's involvement with men also continued to be a concern. The mother reported R.A. had a violent temper, and abused drugs and alcohol. The mother began a relationship with K.S., with whom she planned to live with along with her children. K.S. has a criminal history, which includes domestic violence, and was using methamphetamine. The mother again recanted earlier unflattering statements she made about R.A.

In December 2009, the parties stipulated that the suspended CINA judgment should be revoked, and the children were adjudicated CINA pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(1), 232.2(6)(c)(2), and 232.2(6)(g). The children were continued in their mother's care with services ordered to address parenting and mental health concerns, as well as drug and alcohol testing for R.A., ...


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