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In the Interest of P.I.-N.

April 24, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Constance Cohen, Associate Juvenile Judge.

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

A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to her daughter. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

Citing her years of substance abuse, mental health issues, exposure to domestic violence, neglectful parenting, and hoarding behaviors, the juvenile court terminated a mother's parental rights to her four-year-old daughter, P.I.-N. The mother, Rhonda, appeals-pointing to her new therapist's testimony that he was "cautiously optimistic" she would be successful in treatment.

After a complete review of the record, we share the juvenile court's belief that the child cannot wait to see if her mother's most recent attempt at therapy succeeds. Because the record includes clear and convincing evidence Rhonda is incapable of providing a safe and stable home for her daughter, we affirm the termination order.

I. Background facts and proceedings

P.I.-N. was born in July 2008. Her parents, Rhonda and Troy, were never married. When she was three months old, the juvenile court adjudicated her as a child in need of assistance (CINA) based on Troy's violent acts toward Rhonda and Rhonda's substance abuse and hospitalizations for mental health emergencies. The court terminated Troy's parental rights in 2009, and P.I.-N. remained in her mother's care with the support of services offered by the Department of Human Services (DHS).

P.I.-N.'s welfare became an issue for the juvenile court again in May 2012. The State filed a CINA petition based on a domestic violence call to the home Rhonda shared with her boyfriend Ed. Police officers believed Rhonda was using methamphetamine, and they described the condition of the home as "abject squalor." The termination ruling summarized the child's environment as follows:

The officer likened what he observed to the television show "Hoarders." He observed garbage and rotting food everywhere. There were at least seven cats running about and animal feces everywhere. The pungent aroma of car urine filled the air. In a back room, police discovered evidence of methamphetamine and marijuana use, including several drug pipes and numerous baggies laced with methamphetamine residue. This paraphernalia was in plain view and accessible to [P.I.-N.], who was only three years of age. When the Department of Human Services took [P.I.-N.] to the hospital for a physical examination, they concluded [she] had likely not been to the doctor in years.

From the time of her removal in May 2012 until September 2012, P.I.-N. could not visit her mother at the family home because of safety concerns. The social worker reported to the court: "the home was very unclean and appeared that mother struggled with hoarding, as well as the home had an infestation of roaches." When visits resumed at the mother's home, they remained fully supervised due to Rhonda's difficulty managing her anger and unresolved mental health issues.

Rhonda has been diagnosed with a number of disorders: dissociative identity, oppositional defiance, post-traumatic stress, antisocial personality, borderline personality, impulse control, schizoaffective, depressive, and bipolar. She has been repeatedly hospitalized for mental health treatment and suicide attempts. She also has a long history of methamphetamine abuse, attempting substance abuse treatment approximately eleven times. Rhonda also has repeatedly been the victim of domestic violence, including abuse perpetrated by Ed, the father of her new baby and a father figure to P.I.-N.

The social worker believed Rhonda was unable to organize her home due to hoarding tendencies. Rhonda stored gas masks, flares, water purifiers, and canned goods. Rhonda would tell the worker she wanted to share some of her supplies for the "end of the world survival" with P.I.-N.'s foster family. Rhonda also collected craft supplies for a women's support group she planned to organize. During the summer of 2012, Rhonda welcomed two homeless young people to live in her cluttered residence. In late June Rhonda went to the hospital after ingesting roach killer. The juvenile court found "credible evidence" Rhonda consumed the substance to abort her pregnancy. But Rhonda blamed the "homeless kids" for leaving the poison in her refrigerator.

The State filed a petition for termination of Rhonda's parental rights on July 19, 2012, citing her long struggles with mental health and substance abuse.

In early October 2012, Rhonda-who was then pregnant-was jailed on a disorderly conduct charge after she and Ed, the expectant father, participated in a fist fight ...

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