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In re V. B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 22, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF V. B., D.B., and M.E.-B., Minor Children, B.B., Mother, Appellant.

         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. AFFIRMED.

          Joseph C. Pavelich of Spies, Pavelich & Foley, Iowa City, for appellant mother.

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

          Anthony A. Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem, and Lynn M. Rose, Iowa City, attorney, for appellees minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         A mother appeals[1] from the order terminating her parental rights to three children pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2016).[2] V.B. was born in March 2002; D.B. in June 2004, and M. E.-B. in April 2007. This family has been under the juvenile court's jurisdiction since 2011-for more than five years. The children were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) on May 30, 2012. The children have been removed from the mother's care and custody since May 20, 2014. The permanency goal was changed from reunification to "another planned, permanent living arrangement" (APPLA) in July 2015, which ruling was affirmed on appeal. See In re E.B., No. 15-1384, 2015 WL 5970443 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 14, 2015).[3] In the July 2015 permanency order, the juvenile court concluded termination of parental rights was not in the children's best interests at that time. This court concurred: "Considering E.B.'s and V.B.'s age, the children's familial identity, their continued bond with [the mother] (with perhaps the exception of D.B.), and with each other, we agree termination was not in the children's best interests at the time of the permanency hearing." Id. at *6.

         In September 2016, the State filed petitions to terminate parental rights. After a December hearing, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f).[4] The court found that termination of parental rights was in the children's best interests because the children "desperately need permanency and stability, " the children were all expressing an interest in being adopted, and while the mother and children had a bond, the children need permanency.

         On appeal, the mother contends there have not been "[a]dditional 'reasonable efforts'" made as a result of the permanency goal changing to APPLA for all the children, insisting the State was required to continue services and encourage more visitation to maintain the parent-child bond. She also asserts termination was not in the children's best interests, and the parent-child bonds weigh against termination.

         We review termination proceedings de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). We give weight to the juvenile court's findings of fact, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses, but are not bound by them. Id.

         We first note that after the entry of the July 2015 ruling changing the permanency goal to APPLA for all the children, Iowa Code section 232.104(2)(d)(4), which authorizes APPLA as an available option, was amended to apply only "[i]f the child is sixteen years of age or older." 2016 Iowa Acts ch. 1063, § 16.

         The mother's claim that reasonable efforts have not been made was addressed by the juvenile court:

Since that [July 2015 permanency] ruling, neither DHS nor the court has been legally required to provide services and supervisions designed to assist the parents with regaining custody of the children. Although the court found in July 2015 that termination was not in the best interests of the children for several reasons, it specifically directed DHS to commence concurrent planning and investigate whether the children would become amenable to adoption. Noting the remarkable progress made by the children as contact with their parents diminished, the court expressed the hope that adoption would become an option for some or all of the children. The court directed DHS to amend the case permanency ...

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