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In re E.L.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF E.L., Minor child, S.L., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dickinson County, David C. Larson, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to her child, E.L., born in November 2012. The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g), (h), and (l) (2016).

          Pamela A. Wingert of Wingert Law Office, Spirit Lake, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Shannon L. Sandy of Sandy Law Firm, P.C., Spirit Lake, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         The mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to her child, E.L., born in November 2012. The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g), (h), and (l) (2016). We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         E.L. was born in November 2012. E.L. was removed from the mother's care on two separate occasions due to her methamphetamine use. On July 23, 2014, E.L. was adjudicated a child in need of assistance, and on October 14, 2016, a termination hearing was held. On December 13, 2016, the court terminated the mother's parental rights and placed custody of E.L. with the father. E.L. has yet to experience permanency.

         E.L.'s exposure to methamphetamines began in utero. At birth, E.L.'s mother was already involved with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) from an August 2012 child-abuse investigation related to active methamphetamine use in the presence of the mother's other child, B.L., E.L.'s older sister.[1] Because the mother was actively participating in substance abuse treatment, E.L. was allowed to stay in the home. The mother and E.L.'s father were not married at the time, but they resided together. The mother complied with DHS services for the majority of 2013 until she relapsed on methamphetamine in fall 2013. The mother was required to leave the home and she participated in substance-abuse treatment for approximately six weeks. E.L.'s father assumed physical care of both children, and the children participated in protective daycare. After returning home, the mother discontinued participation in DHS services.

         In early 2014, a team meeting was held and DHS again provided services, including drug screening. On five separate occasions, DHS scheduled the mother and father for random drug testing. The father and mother failed to provide any samples. Ultimately, DHS attempted to conduct an in-home drug screen but the mother was unable to provide a sample, and the father was unavailable. After receiving multiple phone calls related to the father and mother's alleged methamphetamine use, DHS filed a petition for removal. On April 23, 2014, E.L. and B.L. were removed from the home and placed in family foster services based on the concern that both parents were actively using methamphetamine. On July 23, 2014, E.L. was adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2014).

         Following removal, DHS offered multiple services, including family foster care placement, reunification services, visitation services, substance abuse treatment, random drug testing, and family safety, risk and permanency (FSRP) services. In January 2015, the mother gave birth to another child, C.L., [2] and in March 2015, the mother and father married. On April 21, 2015, custody of E.L. and B.L. was returned to the father and mother. For the next few months E.L.'s parents were making positive progress toward reunification. The mother was discharged from substance-abuse treatment, attending support meetings, working part-time, and regularly meeting with FSRP workers.

         DHS, however, was suspicious of relapse and attempted to test both parties for illegal substances. Their attempts again failed. Over the summer and fall of 2015, DHS scheduled eleven separate drug screenings. The mother and father failed to provide a sample for any of them. On September 14, 2015, the parents admitted to relapsing multiple times, and on September 15, 2015, the court entered a ...


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