Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Mark F. Schlenker, District Associate Judge.
The mother and father appeal from the juvenile court's order terminating parental rights, claiming there was not clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the children's best interest. The children, J.A., Y.A., and T.R., filed a joinder in the mother's notice of appeal.
Paul White of the Des Moines Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, for appellants, the minor children.
Patrick W. O'Bryan of O'Bryan Law Firm, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
Christopher Kemp of Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, for appellant father.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, and John Sarcone, County Attorney, for appellee State.
Vicki Meade, West Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
The mother of J.A. (born 2001), Y.A. (born 2003), and T.R. (born 2004), as well as the father of J.A. and Y.A., appeal the termination of their parental rights. The children were removed and later adjudicated children in need of assistance on January 18, 2011 due to "physical abuse by mother despite numerous services to address this issue" and lack of reasonable supervision. The court cited Iowa Code sections 232.2(6)(b) and (6)(c)(2) (2011) as a basis for its order. On February 22, 2011, the juvenile court determined the children would remain out of the home, as they could not be protected from physical abuse or neglect if placed with the mother, who continued to reside with an inappropriate paramour.
This family has a long history with the department of human services ("DHS"). The children have been the subject of thirteen founded child abuse reports, adjudicated children in need of assistance on three separate occasions and in two different counties, as well as subjected to removal three times on previous occasions. In between foster care placements, they have stayed in psychiatric hospitals and shelters, as they have notable behavioral issues. This history is due in part to the mother's physical health issues, as she suffers from Lupus, as well as her mental health and substance abuse problems, which result in an inability to properly care for her children. She has also continued a relationship with a substance abuser, in spite of knowing the relationship was detrimental to the children.
In attempting to keep the boys in her custody, DHS has offered the mother the following services: substance abuse evaluations, urine analysis, hair stat tests, supervised visitation, parenting skill education, individual therapy, family therapy, anger management counseling, and substance abuse counseling. DHS reports indicated the mother has struggled to change her behavior, and has taken over two years to do so, but has eventually learned to engage in less abusive behavior and acknowledge her mistakes. As such, this case was originally moving towards reunification.
However, it was discovered the mother's live-in paramour, Javid Woodson, was continuing to use cocaine. Specifically, in therapy he admitted to using drugs eight times in the prior thirty days, and tested positive for cocaine shortly before the termination hearing. Woodson was responsible for a great deal of supervision of the children, and according to DHS reports, the boys viewed him as an authority figure. Woodson was also responsible for the majority of the home's financial support, given the mother's inability to work due to her mental and physical conditions. Because of his drug use, DHS required Woodson to move out of the home. However, without Woodson's support, the mother is unable to care for the boys, either physically or financially. Even though the mother is making progress, given she has no support system, DHS and various therapists noted it will take her another six months to a year before she would conceivably be capable of taking care of her children. Even then, though, it is not a certainty she will be a competent parent. This observation is based on the fact she continues to make ...