IN THE INTEREST OF D.W., M.W.-A., AND M.W., Minor Children, S.W., Mother, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Angela L. Doyle, District Associate Judge.
The mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (f) (2011).
Marcy Lundberg, Fort Dodge, for appellant mother.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Janet L. Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, Ricki Osborn, County Attorney, and Cori Coleman, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.
Derek Johnson, Fort Dodge, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
The mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights, pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (f) (2011), to her children, D.W., M.W.-A, and M.W. She asserts the State failed to prove she did not maintain significant and meaningful contact with the children and also failed to prove she did not make reasonable efforts to resume care of the children, despite being given the opportunity to do so. She further claims the evidence does not show the children cannot be returned to her care, and argues that termination is not in their best interest due to the family bond. Because we find the State proved by clear and convincing evidence termination is appropriate under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f), and that termination is in the children's best interest, we affirm.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
D.W. was born in July 2004. M.W.-A. was born in September 2007, and M.W. was born in October 2008. D.W. and M.W.-A were first adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) on July 22, 2008, pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.2(6)(a) and (c)(2), and M.W. was adjudicated a CINA on April 23, 2009, pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2). All three CINA cases were due to reports of child abuse, domestic violence between the mother and M.W.-A and M.W.'s father (Jody), as well as substance abuse. At the time of the CINA adjudications, all three children were living with the mother.
On January 15, 2009, another child abuse assessment was completed due to the mother allowing D.W. and M.W.-A to have contact with Jody's brother, who is a registered sex offender. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) informed the mother this contact was unacceptable and that the uncle should not be alone with the children. However, the mother allowed the uncle and an underage babysitter to supervise the children without her being present. When confronted about this conduct, the mother insisted that because he is the children's uncle, "their blood, " he is not a danger to them. The DHS report noted the mother's "continued lack of understanding and insight into this situation is a concern that could potentially put her children into dangerous situations in the future."
In February 2009, the mother exposed the children to her then-paramour, Anthony, who is also on the sex offender registry. When questioned about this interaction, the mother informed the DHS worker that "her sex life has nothing to do with her kids." The DHS report stated the mother "is willing to jeopardize the safety of her children and lie to DHS in order to keep her boyfriend protected." Due to these events, M.W. was adjudicated CINA in April 2009.
In November 2009, the mother completed a mental health and parenting assessment. She was diagnosed with polysubstance dependence and two personality disorders—antisocial and borderline. The assessment indicated the mother's prognosis is poor and that her ability to parent the children is questionable, particularly due to her lack of ability to screen for potential risks to the children as well as her overall ability to parent.
On February 19, 2010, the children were removed from the mother's care due to her refusal to submit to a drug test after DHS received reports she was parenting the children while under the influence of illegal substances. Following the removal the mother tested positive for methamphetamine. In March 2010 she was dating Nick, who was charged and then later pled guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. Before his incarceration he and the mother discussed marriage to ...