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In re E.C.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF E.C., Minor Child, T.C., Mother, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D. Belcher, District Associate Judge.

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights claiming the termination was not in the child's best interest.

Aaron H. Ginkens of Ginkens Law Firm, P.L.C., Clive, for appellant.

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

Erin Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for the child.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

MULLINS, J.

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her daughter, E.C., who was born in August of 2009.[1] The mother raises two issues in this appeal: whether the termination was in the child's best interest and whether the termination was proper given the closeness and bond of the parent-child relationship.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

This termination arises out of the second child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) proceeding involving this mother and child. The first CINA petition was filed just weeks after the child was born due to the mother's drug use. The child tested positive for marijuana at birth, and the mother tested positive for methamphetamine a few weeks after the birth. The child was placed in family foster care for most of her first year of life. The child was eventually returned to the mother while she was in rehab, and the CINA case was closed in August 2011.

The mother admitted celebrating the closing of the CINA case by immediately using marijuana and eventually started using methamphetamine again. The mother consented to the child's removal in November of 2011 after admitting using methamphetamine. The child was placed back in the same foster family and was adjudicated a CINA again in December. At the permanency hearing in May 2012, the court found the mother was making progress and granted her an additional six months to work toward reunification, though it required her to find a therapist to help her address her past and determine what brought her to use illegal drugs and have the child removed. She was also ordered to grow and maintain support systems. The mother continued to use illegal substances in the late summer, early fall of 2012 and was admitted to in-patient treatment in November. She was discharged to a half-way house after twenty-one days of treatment.

The State filed a petition to terminate the mother's rights in December 2012. The case proceeded to a hearing, which took place January 31, March 8, 11, and 25, 2013. Following the first day of the termination hearing, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine at the half-way house and admitted to using. The department of human services (DHS) social worker testified the child was attached to the foster parents and looked to them to have her basic needs met. The mother had completed only one session with a therapist by the time of the final day of the termination hearing. Every witness acknowledged, including the mother, that the mother was not immediately prepared to parent the child as she needed to work more on her sobriety.

The court entered an order terminating the mother's rights May 17, 2013, finding the child could not be returned to the mother immediately as she continued to struggle with her sobriety, was not leading a lifestyle of recovery, and was clean from drugs for only a short period of time. "The mother's failure to fully engage in services such as therapy, obtaining a sponsor, and working through the steps and actively participating in continuing care does not assure this Court that the mother can adequately and safely parent the child without fully addressing her substance abuse." The court found there was a strong loving bond between the mother and ...


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