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In re S.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 22, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF S.B., Minor child, S.N.B., Mother, Appellant.

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

         The mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to her child, S.B. The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g) and (h) (2016). AFFIRMED.

          Andrea M. Flanagan of Sporer & Flanagan, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kristi A. Traynor, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Charles S. Fuson of Youth Law Center, 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 order terminating her parental rights to her child, S.B., born in May 2016. The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g) and (h) (2016). We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         S.B. came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) immediately after his birth on May 20, 2016, as the mother tested positive for methamphetamine during pregnancy, and she was incarcerated at the time of his birth for convictions for identity theft and fraud.[1] On May 24, 2016, the juvenile court entered an order for temporary removal from the mother's care and placed S.B. in the care of his maternal aunt and uncle. S.B. has remained in their care since removal.

         On May 26, the mother was released from prison. After an uncontested removal hearing on June 2, the juvenile court confirmed placement of S.B. with the aunt and uncle under DHS supervision due to the mother's "unresolved substance abuse issues." On July 5, S.B. was adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and (n) because a return to the mother's care was contrary to the child's welfare.

         In its August 2, 2016 dispositional order, the court adopted a case permanency plan, which, in part, required the mother to participate in various services to achieve reunification, including family safety, risk, and permanency services; mental-health treatment; substance-abuse treatment; random drug screens; individual therapy; and visitation. In October 2016, the court determined that returning the child home would be contrary to S.B.'s welfare because "continued placement in or a return to the home would be contrary to the child's welfare due to the mother's unresolved substance abuse and mental health issues, including lack of consistency in or verification of treatment, and [the] father's incarceration." The court continued placement of the child with the aunt and uncle under DHS supervision. The mother was incarcerated again on October 31, 2016.

         In December 2016, a termination hearing was held. At the hearing, the mother testified about her abuse of illegal substances, specifically methamphetamine, for approximately eight years. She admitted to misleading DHS workers throughout the proceedings, missing twelve drug screenings, using methamphetamine "almost every day" between the months of June and September, and attending visitations while methamphetamine was in her system. She conceded that at the time of the hearing, she was not in a place to have S.B. in her care but contended she would be in the near future. During the termination trial, the mother called into question her own credibility. As the juvenile court stated:

It is difficult to put any stock into [the mother's] claimed date of sobriety, or for that matter, anything she says, because she has virtually no credibility. She proved to be a serial liar to the DHS case worker and other providers during the course of [S.B.'s] CINA case, insisting until November, 2016, that she hadn't used methamphetamine since 2014; that she had obtained substance abuse evaluations; that she was attending substance abuse treatment; and that she was attending therapy. These claims were all false. [The mother's] criminal record also reveals a strong trait for dishonesty. Between July 2009 and July 2013, she either pleaded guilty to or was ...

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