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In re B.M.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

May 30, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF B.M. and P.M., Minor Children, C.K., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.

          Lynn C.H. Poschner of Borseth Law Office, Altoona, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Stephanie Brown, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          Jane White, Des Moines, for father.

          Nicole Nolan of Youth Law Center, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          MULLINS, J.

         The mother appeals from a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to two children under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), and (f) (2011). The mother contends (1) the State did not make reasonable reunification efforts, (2) the State failed to prove each statutory ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence, (3) terminating her parental rights is not in the children's best interest, (4) placement with the children's father weighs against terminating her parental rights, and (5) the juvenile court erred in excluding certain telephonic testimony. We affirm the order terminating the mother's parental rights.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         We must review the termination of the mother's parental rights to two children, P.M. (born 2003) and B.M. (born 2000). The mother and father are the parents of P.M., B.M., and R.M. R.M. is now an adult and is not at issue in the present appeal. The parents have a history of domestic abuse and divorced in 2010.

         This case first came to the attention of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in November 2009 on a report that the mother had abused the oldest child, R.M. As a result of the reported abuse, DHS provided services to the family including individual therapy for the children and the mother. In August 2010, the mother left a visible injury on B.M. while disciplining him for using the telephone. The abuse occurred in the presence of P.M. B.M. expressed fear about being in the mother's home and was afraid the mother would punish him for speaking with DHS. Based on this latest episode of physical abuse, the State requested that the juvenile court enter an order temporarily removing the children from the mother's care. The court granted the State's request for temporary removal and placed the children with the father.

         In August 2010, the juvenile court held a contested removal hearing. The court found the mother's testimony was evasive, self-contradictory, contradictory to the testimony of others, and lacked credibility. The mother evaded questions about previous reports of founded child abuse, refused to acknowledge that leaving bruises on the children may constitute child abuse, denied ever physically abusing the children, and accused her children of lying to their therapist and service providers. B.M. expressed fear of the mother's anger. Both the children's therapist and the family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) service provider testified that the mother's mental health and anger issues placed the children at risk while under the mother's supervision. The juvenile court confirmed removal.

         In September 2010, the juvenile court held an uncontested adjudication hearing. The mother had hired new legal counsel to represent her. The juvenile court adjudicated the children as children in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) and (c)(2) (2009). The FSRP service provider indicated she was unable to work with the mother any longer because her relationship with the mother had deteriorated. A new FSRP service provider was appointed. The juvenile court found placement outside the mother's home was necessary because of "physical abuse by the mother despite approximately seven to eight months of services to address this issue." The court ordered the mother to engage in parenting classes, obtain a ...


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