IN THE INTEREST OF D.B., O.B., T.B., and J.B., Minor Children, A.B., Mother, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Gregory D. Brandt, District Associate Judge.
A mother appeals a juvenile court's order terminating parental rights to her four children.
Erin M. Carr of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Janet L. Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Jennifer Galloway, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Stephie Tran, Des Moines, for appellee father of O.B., T.B., and J.B.
Donna Beary, Des Moines, for appellee father of D.B.
Erin Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
A mother of four, Amanda, appeals a juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (1)(e), (1)(f), and (1)(h) (2011). Amanda contends the State failed to meet its burden to prove each ground by clear and convincing evidence, and termination was not in the four children's best interest. She also asserts the court erred by not granting a six-month continuance for her to improve her parenting abilities.
Because the record reveals the conditions causing the children's initial removal continue to exist, the State met its burden to prove the statutory grounds to terminate. Amanda's minimal improvement over the span of the case shows a six-month continuance would only delay a permanent placement for the children. Because all four children are thriving in their current home environments, it is in their best interest to terminate Amanda's parental rights.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
The children involved in this termination proceeding are D.B., O.B., T.B., and J.B., who are eight years, five years, two years, and eleven months old respectively. The four children share the same mother, Amanda. D.B.'s father is Matthew,  and Manuel is the father of the other three children. Manuel and Amanda have been in a relationship for the past seven years.
The Department of Human Service (DHS) provided services to Amanda in 2007 based on drug trafficking in Amanda's home and her admitted use of marijuana in the presence of D.B. In July 2011, DHS again became involved following allegations the children were enduring "deplorable" living conditions. The assessment showed Amanda's home had no electricity and no running water; was filthy with dog feces throughout; was infested with bedbugs, and smelled of urine, body odor, and pet odor.
DHS began an additional investigation one month later after receiving allegations that Manuel and Amanda were leaving their children with caretakers who were under the influence of methamphetamine. Workers grew concerned the couple also used illegal drugs. Amanda's hair sample tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine; Manuel's hair sample tested positive for multiple controlled substances. Hair samples from two of Amanda's children also tested positive for drugs.
On November 10, 2011, D.B., O.B., and T.B. were temporarily removed from the couple's care. Four days later, the State filed a petition alleging all three were children in need of assistance (CINA). At the removal hearing, the couple stipulated to Amanda's mother watching D.B., while T.B. and O.B. remained with a family friend, subject to her negative drug screen.
During an adjudication hearing, Amanda's mother admitted she knew both parents used marijuana, and actually witnessed them using methamphetamine in August 2011. The grandmother said she removed herself and D.B. from the environment, but O.B. and T.B. stayed with their parents. On December 14, 2011, the juvenile court adjudicated the children as CINA under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b), ...