IN THE INTEREST OF B.L. and E.L., Minor Children, T.O., Mother, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J. Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
A mother appeals the juvenile court's denial of her request for additional time before terminating her parental rights.
MaryBeth A. Fleming, Dubuque, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Ralph Potter, County Attorney, and Joshua A. Vander Ploeg, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.
A mother appeals the juvenile court's termination of her parental rights, arguing a brief extension would allow her to pursue reunification with her two children. She asserts she is complying with the Department of Human Services (DHS) case plan for drug testing and treatment. Because the mother's active participation in DHS services did not start until the month before the termination hearing and her history of compliance is sporadic, an extension would not likely lead to reunification. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of her parental rights.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
Teresa is the mother of two children: E.L., born in October 2008, and B.L., born in September 2009. The children's father, Dillon, lives in Arizona and has not taken part in the majority of the proceedings.
In February 2012, the DHS opened this case following allegations Teresa was not properly supervising the children; specifically, she slept while the young children were awake and locked them in their room for long periods of time. The allegations of improper supervision coincided with Teresa's history of abusing marijuana and painkillers. On April 26, 2012, following incidents of domestic violence between Teresa and Dillon and an injury to B.L.'s wrist, the children were removed from Teresa's care and placed with one of Teresa's sisters.
On June 25, 2012, the juvenile court adjudicated E.L. and B.L. as children in need of assistance (CINA) following a contested adjudication hearing. One month later a dispositional order continued the placement of the children in the custody of the DHS. At the January 14, 2013 review hearing, the juvenile court determined the children remained in need of assistance and encouraged Teresa to reengage in services, citing her early departure from inpatient substance abuse and failure to attend her follow-up outpatient treatment and attend mental health counseling.
Because Teresa's sisters were not in a position to be long-term care options for E.L. and B.L., the DHS placed the children with their paternal grandparents. The case worker reported the children have adjusted very well to their placement.
In the month before the termination hearing, Teresa was receiving services at the Substance Abuse Services Center; Catholic Charities, for personal mental health counseling; Hillcrest Mental Health, for medication management; and Crossroads Counseling, for counseling with her children. Teresa previously entered these services, but either tapered off or failed to complete them. During her mental health treatment, Teresa was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and received medication. She indicated a desire to continue all services, regardless of the case outcome, believing the services improved her parenting and personal well-being. Teresa was also looking for work; her only source of income was babysitting for one of her sister's children.
Teresa's housing was unstable because the family member with whom she was staying planned to move. At the termination hearing, Teresa identified her most likely housing plan as moving with her boyfriend, Charlie, into the three-bedroom trailer he intended to purchase. Teresa and Charlie have dated for about one year. Charlie is employed and has a nine-year-old son. DHS discussed other housing options such as Maria House, a transitional housing program, which ...