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In re N.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 22, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF N.M., Minor child, M.K., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joseph W. Seidlin, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals from the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to her minor child. AFFIRMED.

          Jeffrey A. Wright of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          John P. Jellinek of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         The mother appeals from the juvenile court order terminating her parental right to her child, N.M., born in April 2014.[1] The mother maintains the statutory grounds for termination have not been met because N.M. could be returned to her care at the time of the termination hearing. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(h)(4) (2016). Additionally, she maintains termination is not in N.M.'s best interests and a permissive factor weighs against terminating her rights. See Iowa Code § 232.116(2), (3).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with the family in November 2015 due to allegations the mother was using methamphetamine while caring for N.M. When confronted, the mother admitted to the drug use; N.M. was removed and placed in the maternal grandmother's care on November 10, 2015.

         Even before the official removal, N.M. had been staying with his maternal grandmother during the week and spending time with the mother and her paramour on weekends. The informal arrangement began due to issues the mother was having with her mental health. The mother reported to DHS that she had been previously diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, she was suffering from postpartum depression and was struggling to bond with N.M. She was already seeing a therapist weekly, and she had been prescribed medication by a psychiatrist. The mother had been hospitalized due to mental-health issues as recently as May 2015; she has a long history of struggling with mental illness and was first hospitalized for mental-health issues when she was in third grade.

         Throughout the duration of the proceedings, the mother remained motivated to have N.M. returned to her care. She attended most of her therapy sessions and, according to her therapist, had made positive strides. The therapist recommended she continue to attend therapy sessions regularly for the foreseeable future.

         However, the mother was less successful in other areas. She admitted that she had relapsed on methamphetamine in October 2015-the act that began DHS involvement-and again in August 2016. Additionally, the mother had a number of drug patches that were positive for drug use and others that had been tampered with.[2] After her August 2016 relapse, the mother completed a new substance-abuse evaluation and was diagnosed with "severe amphetamine-type substance stimulant use disorder." It was recommended that she begin an extended outpatient drug treatment program. Although the mother began the program, she attended only one individual session and one group session before being unsuccessfully discharged for lack of attendance on October 25, 2016.

         In October 2016, the mother allowed her boyfriend, a registered sex offender, to move into her apartment. She did this in spite of DHS's warnings that N.M. could not be returned to her if she allowed a sex offender to live with her. The mother moved the boyfriend in but denied that she was living with anyone when she was asked. DHS only learned the boyfriend was living with the mother-approximately one month later-when the boyfriend updated his residence on the sex offender registry to that of the mother's ...


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