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In re S.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 12, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF S.K., Minor Child, S.K., Mother, Appellant

Editorial Note:

This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Deborah Farmer Minot, District Associate Judge. A mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights.

Rachel C.B. Antonuccio of Iowa City Public Defender's Office, Iowa City, for appellant mother.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Janet M. Lyness, County Attorney, and Patricia A. Weir, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Anthony Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, for minor child.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., Bower, J., and Huitink, S.J.[*]

OPINION

HUITINK, S.J.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

Stacey is the mother of a child born in September 2007. In April 2011, the child was discovered wandering around outside a hotel unsupervised while Stacey was engaged in a domestic dispute. Stacey was arrested, and the child was removed from her care and placed with relatives. The following month, the child was adjudicated as a child in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.2(6)(c)(2) and 232.2(6)(n) (2011) following stipulation of the parties.

Stacey has a history of involvement in relationships marked by domestic abuse. At the time the family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), Stacey admitted to a history of physical and sexual abuse in her relationship. She also admitted to abusing prescription medication. Stacey has mental health issues and, following a substance abuse evaluation, was diagnosed with alcohol dependence.

In February 2012, the court ordered the State to file a petition to terminate Stacey's parental rights. But before the May termination hearing, Stacey began making progress in addressing her issues, and the termination hearing was continued. The court authorized a trial home placement, and custody was returned to Stacey in August 2012. Although concerns about Stacey's return to a volatile relationship began to surface as early as November 2012, by April 2013 it was hoped that her progress would continue and the CINA case could be closed in July 2013. These hopes were extinguished in May 2013 when Stacey was arrested on a felony domestic abuse assault charge.

On May 20, 2013, the State filed a motion to modify prior orders. A hearing was held on July 17 and August 28, 2013. On September 18, 2013, the juvenile court entered its order modifying its prior orders to place the child in the care of the relatives who had cared for her during her first removal. The court also waived the reasonable efforts requirement and scheduled a permanency hearing the next month. Following the permanency hearing, the court ordered the State to file a petition to terminate Stacey's parental rights.

The State filed its termination petition on October 14, 2013, and the case proceeded to a hearing on November 20, 2013. In its November 22, 2013, order, the juvenile court found that despite Stacey's claims, " it is highly likely" that she had resumed " her unhealthy, dysfunctional, and sometimes violent relationship" as evidenced by " her lack of employment . . ., her failure to take steps to keep the no contact orders in place, and her diminished participation in services." The court found the child " has experienced considerable loss, trauma, and abandonment" and " was physically mistreated by the mother." It further noted the " significant concerns" that the child " has experienced some form of sexual abuse, either directly or by exposure to sexual activity and/or pornography" given the child's expressed knowledge of sexual activity and her inappropriate, sexualized behaviors. The court concluded Stacey's parental rights should be terminated under sections 232.116(1)(g) (child adjudicated CINA, parental rights to another child terminated, parent continues to lack the ability or willingness to respond ...


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