IN THE INTEREST OF M.B. and T.B., Minor Children,
J.E., Mother, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Louise Jacobs, District Associate Judge.
J.E. appeals the district court order terminating her parental rights.
Emily A. Schmidt of Tucker Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Annette Taylor, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
John Heineke, Des Moines, for father.
Kayla Stratton, Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
J.E. appeals the district court order terminating her parental rights. She claims significant and meaningful contact with the children during the six months preceding the termination order and the best interests of the children preclude termination. We find J.E. has failed to maintain sufficient contact with the children and has not made reasonable efforts to resume care of the children despite being given an opportunity to do so. We also find termination is in the childrens' best interests. We affirm.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
M.B. and T.B. are the children of J.E. and A.E. The children were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) by the district court on May 10, 2012. The children had been removed from their parent's home on April 6, 2012. The petition to terminate parental rights was filed on April 4, 2013, and the termination hearing was held on May 31, 2013.
The children first came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) following allegations of domestic abuse between the parents. There were also allegations of substance abuse by the parents. During the DHS investigation, it was also alleged A.E. violated a no-contact order at the request of J.E.
J.E. was the only witness called during the termination hearing. She appeared by phone because she does not have a vehicle and could not find transportation to the courthouse. During the hearing J.E. admitted to a history of substance abuse and not consistently following recommendations to address her drug problem. She also admitted she has missed twenty-three of twenty-five drug screens, and does not yet have a sobriety plan. J.E. also admitted she has not complied with mental health recommendations and has not followed up with service providers in an effort to do so. J.E. testified she was doing a good job taking care of her children while they were in her care despite admitting they were witnesses to domestic violence and one child had begun acting out in an aggressive manner. She also claimed she can rely on family and friends for support, though she was unable to find anyone to transport her to the termination hearing.
Following removal of the children from J.E.'s care, she moved to Florida for several months in 2012 to address her substance abuse problems. Because she failed to submit to drug testing, the success of her efforts is in doubt. Her contact with the children during her stay in Florida was inconsistent. J.E. asserted to the district court she has made greater efforts since January 2013 to maintain a consistent and healthy relationship with the children. Her plan for reunification is to find a job, which she believes will address her substance abuse problem. She has done little, however, to find employment. When she has visitation, one of her children refuses to see her. J.E. continues to minimize her substance abuse and domestic abuse history, and maintains she ...