IN THE INTEREST OF X.M., Minor Child, D.M., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, David F.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
one-year-old son. AFFIRMED.
T. Galbraith of Iowa Legal Aid, Waterloo, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary K. Wickman, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Timothy M. Baldwin of Juvenile Public Defender's Office,
Waterloo, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
started his life as a Safe Haven baby. His mother,
Destiny, told medical personnel after giving birth in
September 2015 that she planned to leave the hospital without
him. The juvenile court approved an emergency removal. The
next day, Destiny reasserted her rights but told the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) she wanted to place her
son in temporary foster care. Three months later, in December
2015, the DHS placed X.M. with Destiny's parents, where
he has lived throughout the child-in-need-of-assistance
January 20, 2017, the juvenile court terminated Destiny's
parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h)
(2016). She appeals that ruling, arguing the State
did not offer clear and convincing evidence to support the
statutory grounds for termination and the juvenile court
failed to explore other permanency options under section
232.104. After an independent review of the record, we are
convinced the termination order is correct.
start with Destiny's challenge to the statutory grounds.
The juvenile court cited two subsections under section
232.116(1) supporting termination of Destiny's parental
rights. We may affirm on either one of those grounds if it is
supported by clear and convincing evidence. See
D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 707. After reviewing the record, we
conclude termination was proper under section 232.116(1)(e).
terminate parental rights under section 232.116(1)(e), the
State must show: (1) the child has been adjudicated CINA
under section 232.96, (2) the child has been removed from the
physical custody of the parent for at least six consecutive
months, and (3) there is clear and convincing evidence the
parent has not maintained significant and meaningful contact
with the child during the previous six consecutive months and
has made no reasonable efforts to resume care of the child
despite being given the opportunity to do so.
"Significant and meaningful contact" means taking
on the "duties encompassed by the role of being a
parent." Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(e)(3). Those duties
include financial support, continued interest in the child, a
genuine effort to complete the responsibilities prescribed in
the case permanency plan, and a genuine effort to maintain
communication with the child. Id. Overall, a parent
must "establish and maintain a place of importance in
the child's life." Id.
does not dispute the first two elements of subsection (e) but
concentrates on the third element, claiming she has
maintained significant and meaningful contact with X.M. since
his birth and has maintained a place of importance in his
life. The record belies her claim. Since X.M.'s birth,
Destiny has vacillated between wanting to give him up and
wanting to act as his mother. Destiny has another son, who
was seventeen months old when X.M. was born in September
2015. At the hospital, Destiny told the DHS worker that she
"didn't think she could take care of two children at
April 2016, Destiny had a change of heart and started
participating in visitation with X.M. The mother-son
interactions went well, and the DHS increased the length and
frequency of the visits in May 2016. But in the summer of
2016, Destiny moved to Des Moines and stopped participating
in DHS services. Destiny did not appear for a June 2016
review hearing and reportedly had told her mother that she no
longer wished to be a parent to X.M. According to a report
filed in October 2016 by the Court Appointed Special Advocate
(CASA), Destiny visited her parents about twice a month and
incidentally saw X.M. during those trips. The CASA
recommended termination of Destiny's parental rights and
adoption by the maternal grandparents.
November 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate
parental rights. Destiny did not appear for the December 2016
termination hearing; her attorney was present but despite
"numerous attempts" had not been able to contact
Destiny. Destiny's mother reported her daughter said she
could not attend court because she couldn't "afford
to get off of work." The maternal grandmother also told
the court she "really [didn't] know" if Destiny
was consenting to termination of her parental rights, but in
the grandmother's opinion, Destiny did not want to assume
care of X.M. The juvenile court heard no witnesses but
admitted several exhibits offered by the State. X.M.'s
guardian ad ...