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In re J.W.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

December 18, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF J.W. AND M.S., Minor Children, A.S., Mother, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D. Belcher, District Associate Judge.

A mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights.

Marla McCoid, Bondurant, for appellant mother.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Janet L. Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Kevin Brownell, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee state.

Jami Hagemeier of the Polk County Juvenile Public Defender Office, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

DOYLE, P.J.

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. She contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination, and she asserts Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(a) and (c) (2013) applied to avoid termination of her parental rights. Upon our de novo review, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Alexis is the mother of J.W., born in 2009, and M.S., born in 2011. Alexis's biological family has a history of substance and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and chronic child abuse assessments. She and her siblings were removed from their biological mother's care in 2002 after the Iowa Department of Human Services (Department) learned of alcohol and child abuse by their biological mother. Alexis's biological parents' parental rights were terminated, and Alexis lived with and was later adopted by her maternal grandmother, Janice.

Alexis gave birth to J.W. at age fifteen. She continued living with Janice, along with Janice's ex-husband and Alexis's siblings. In April 2010, Alexis and J.W. came to the Department's attention when it learned from Alexis that Janice had kicked her out of her home while Janice was caring for J.W., and Janice would not return J.W. to her. The Department also learned that Janice's ex-husband had obtained a no-contact order against Alexis because she was smoking marijuana, was not attending school, and was not following his and Janice's house rules. The no-contact order meant that Alexis, then a minor and Janice's responsibility, could not return to the home. Thereafter, Alexis was adjudicated a child in need of assistance.

Alexis initially stayed with her sister, and J.W. remained in Janice's care for a few days until Alexis was placed in her paternal aunt's care, and J.W. was placed with Alexis. Alexis admitted she smoked marijuana and was skipping school, and she agreed to follow her aunt's rules that she attend school and then come immediately home to care for J.W. That worked temporarily, but Alexis stopped following those rules, and she attempted to run away with J.W. However, the police picked both her and J.W. up. Alexis was taken to a youth shelter, and J.W. was placed back in the aunt's home.

Alexis was offered housing and placement at the House of Mercy in its Teen Parenting Program, where J.W. could have been placed with her, but she declined. Alexis was placed back in Janice's care after Janice's ex-husband was arrested and placed in jail. J.W. remained in the aunt's care until approximately June 2010, when J.W. was placed in the care of his paternal grandmother, Pamela.

Alexis began participating in services and made much progress in the case. In approximately October 2010, J.W. was placed back in Alexis's care and was living with Alexis and Janice. Around January 2011, Alexis and J.W. began living with Pamela. The court approved this arrangement and J.W.'s placement with Alexis so long as Alexis continued to live with Pamela. Alexis gave birth to M.S. in August, and she continued to make progress. By October 2011, Alexis had progressed so far the court noted in its review order ...


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