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In re C.M.E.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 23, 2013

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

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jones County, Angie Wilson, District Associate Judge.

A mother appeals termination of parental rights to a child.

Melody J. Butz of Butz Law Offices, P.C., Center Point, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Phil Parsons, County Attorney, and Emily Stork, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Robert Davison, Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

MULLINS, J.

A mother appeals from a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to C.M.E. (born September 2010) under Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(h) and (l) (2013). She argues the state failed to prove the grounds to terminate, the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying her motion to continue the termination hearing, and termination is not in the child's best interest because of her bond with the mother. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

C.M.E. was born in September 2010. Shortly before her birth, the mother and father ended their relationship. The father has had only sporadic contact with C.M.E. since her birth, has not participated in services, and consented to termination of his parental rights. He is not a party in this appeal.

C.M.E. first came to the attention of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in August 2011, when she was eleven months old. The maternal grandmother and grandfather, [1] discovered the mother and her boyfriend passed out in their home while caring for C.M.E. The grandfather had to crawl through a window to reach C.M.E., who was crying. The mother and her boyfriend did not wake up even when shaken. A child abuse investigation found the mother had denied critical care and failed to provide proper supervision. The mother agreed to participate in services, and the State did not file a child in need of assistance petition at that time. However, the mother failed to comply with services, including drug testing, and did not maintain contact with DHS. In April 2012, the mother was arrested for driving while barred. The maternal grandmother's petition for a substance abuse commitment was granted. During this time the mother was living between the maternal grandmother's home and friends' homes in Lisbon whom DHS feared were drug users. The mother sometimes kept C.M.E. with her during these stays and occasionally left her with the father. On May 10, 2012, while C.M.E. was at her father's home, DHS began another investigation after allegations arose that the mother was using methamphetamine. The second allegation of denial of critical care and failure to provide adequate supervision was later founded. On the same day, the mother began hospitalization for her substance abuse commitment. Upon being admitted the mother tested positive for alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamine. She acknowledged using marijuana but denied using methamphetamine. When contacted by DHS, the father indicated he was unable to care for C.M.E. during the mother's hospitalization. On May 16, 2012, the court ordered removal of C.M.E. from the father's care and placed her with the maternal grandmother.

Following the mother's consent, on August 14, 2012, the court adjudicated C.M.E. a child in need of assistance under Iowa Code sections 232.2(6)(c)(2) and 232.2(6)(n) (2011). The court ordered the mother to get a substance abuse evaluation and follow through with all recommended treatment, comply with drug testing, get a mental health evaluation and follow through with treatment, find employment, and find an apartment. C.M.E. remained with the maternal grandmother, and the mother received two supervised visits per week.

The mother did get a substance abuse evaluation and completed inpatient dual diagnosis treatment. However, her attendance at follow-up outpatient treatment was sporadic. She attended some sessions but stopped going after December 2012, stating she felt the counselors were "picking on" her. The substance abuse counselor was concerned from the outset that the mother was underreporting her drug use. The mother continued to show physical signs of methamphetamine use, such as sores, picking behavior, fatigue, and poor hygiene. She missed nine out of ten drug testing dates. The mother complains that she could not get drug testing because of her lack of transportation and limited testing options in Jones County. However, the family advocate testified that although the mother was offered various options, including having a mobile drug test unit go to wherever she was staying, the mother always came up with excuses why they would not work. She also denied any drug use during the case, insisting she was sober. She obtained a mental health evaluation but never completed the recommended treatment. DHS was unable to communicate with the mother because her address kept changing as did her phone number. She reported she was working on but unable to secure stable housing. The mother continued to associate with drug users. The DHS worker testified that when the mother went to live with her friends her drug use increased. In November 2012, the mother was staying in a house that was raided by police. She was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia as a result of the raid. The mother also reported a domestic assault against her by a boyfriend.

By the time of the review hearing on February 12, 2013, the mother had made very little progress. C.M.E. had been out of her care for nine consecutive months. The court therefore directed the State to file a termination petition and set a trial ...


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