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In re A.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.M., M.H.-M., and G.M., Minor Children, J.M., Father, Appellant, D.H., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Russell G. Keast, District Associate Judge.

         A father and mother appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Raymond P. Lough, Vinton, for appellant father.

          Annette F. Martin, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer and Janet L. Hoffman (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Deborah M. Skelton, Walford, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          MULLINS, Presiding Judge.

         A father and mother appeal separately from the juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their three children. They both argue the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that reasonable efforts had been made to reunify the family. The father also argues the juvenile court should have granted his request for additional time to work toward reunification. Upon our de novo review, we affirm on both appeals.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The mother and father have three children together: A.M., born in December 2006; M.H.-M., born in March 2012; and G.M., born in July 2013.[1]The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in February 2015 due to concerns regarding the mother's substance-abuse and mental-health issues interfering with her ability to care for the children safely. The mother and father were not living together at the time, and the father has never been the children's primary care provider.

         Both parents have a lengthy history of substance abuse. The mother has four founded or confirmed child abuse assessments, three of which involved at least one of her children testing positive for illegal drugs when the child was in the mother's care. The mother also has struggled with serious mental-health issues for which she has received treatment for at least sixteen years. There is also a history of domestic violence between the parents. Additionally, the father has been unable to maintain stable housing.

         In late March 2015, the children were removed from the mother's care and placed with their maternal grandmother near where the parents lived. The mother participated in fully supervised visits with the children twice a week. In May, the children were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA). Later that month, the maternal grandmother became unable to care for the children, and they were placed with their paternal grandmother, who lived over two hours away. After the children were moved, the mother refused to participate in visitation with the children because she believed it would confuse the children to not return home with her. In late September 2015, the children's paternal grandmother transported the children to the mother's home for a supervised visit. At the end of the visit, the mother refused to let the service provider leave the home with the children and threatened and called the provider names in front of the children. The mother eventually called the police, who convinced the mother to allow the provider and the children to leave.

         In November 2015, the mother sent a text message to the children's paternal grandmother asking her to say goodbye to the children for the mother and stating she was "tired of all of this." The grandmother contacted law enforcement to conduct a wellness check on the mother, who was found to have overdosed on prescription medication. The mother admitted she had attempted to commit suicide. Upon examination at the hospital, the mother tested positive for cannabinoids, opiates, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. She was transferred to the mental health unit of the hospital, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder-bipolar type, and placed on anti-psychotic medication. She was later discharged to a residential care ...


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