IN THE INTEREST OF R.T., Minor Child, K.T., Grandmother, Petitioner-Appellee, R.N., Mother, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Craig
M. Dreismeier, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights under
Iowa Code chapter 600A (2016). REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Joseph Narmi, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.
Stephen C. Ebke of Ebke Law Office, Council Bluffs, for
J. McCann of Law Offices of David J. McCann, Council Bluffs,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
mother, Rachel, appeals the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental rights to her eight-year-old
daughter, R.T., who has been under the legal guardianship of
her paternal grandmother, Kris, since 2011. Rachel argues she
did not abandon R.T. within the meaning of Iowa Code section
600A.8(3)(b) (2016) and termination of her parental rights
would not be in R.T.'s best interests. After our
independent review of the record,  we find Kris failed to prove
the statutory grounds for abandonment. Accordingly, we
reverse the order of the juvenile court.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
and John are the unmarried parents of R.T., who was born in
August 2008. When their daughter was born, Rachel and John
were living with John's parents, Kris and Larry. In 2009,
the police found drug paraphernalia in the bedroom occupied
by Rachel and John, spurring their entry into substance-abuse
treatment. R.T. remained with her grandparents. R.T. returned
to her parents' care a few months later, but in 2011,
Rachel and John both relapsed.
December 2011, Rachel and John consented to placing R.T. in a
legal guardianship with Kris and Larry. All agreed the
guardianship would last until R.T. was eighteen years old,
unless Rachel and John were able to provide a safe living
environment for R.T. before then. In the ensuing years, Kris
and Larry retained physical care of R.T. The grandparents
considered "letting [R.T.] go back" to her
mother's care in 2014 when Rachel was sober and appeared
to be turning her life around; R.T. spent alternating
weekends in her mother's care during a period of about
and John's second daughter was born in 2014. In 2015,
Rachel's relationship with John ended. In October 2015,
Larry, who was a father figure to Rachel, died. As
"things started falling apart, " Rachel relapsed.
As a result, Rachel and John placed their second daughter in
a guardianship with her maternal grandparents.
this time frame, Kris started placing restrictions on
Rachel's visitation with R.T., requiring Rachel to
schedule visits ahead of time, arrive sober, and refrain from
asking Kris for money at the visits. After Kris began to suspect
Rachel was stealing from her, she stopped allowing visits in
her home. Rachel became less reliable, often failing to
attend scheduled visits or showing up late. Rachel's
contact with R.T. decreased to two or three times each month,
according to Kris's testimony.
March 1, 2016, Kris filed a petition to terminate
Rachel's parental rights. One month later, Rachel was
arrested for possession of methamphetamine and marijuana.
Rachel pleaded guilty and received a ...