IN THE INTEREST OF K.S., Minor child, J.S., Father, Petitioner-Appellee M.K., Mother, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Casey D. Jones,
District Associate Judge.
mother appeals from the district court's order
terminating her parental rights to her child, K.S., now age
sixteen. The children's father initiated this action
under Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(2016) in April 2016.
C. Abbott of Abbott Law Office, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant
mother. Crystal L. Usher of Nazette, Marner, Nathanson &
Shea L.L.P., Cedar Rapids, for appellee father.
Kristen A. Shaffer of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C.,
Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.
mother appeals from the district court's order
terminating her parental rights to her child, K.S., age
sixteen at the time of trial. The children's father
initiated this action in August 2016.
Factual and Procedural Background.
biological mother and father were married at the time of her
birth in 2000. In 2005, the parties dissolved their marriage
by decree. The decree awarded shared physical care of K.S. to
the mother and father. The father married his current wife in
2006. The stepmother has been a caregiver to K.S. for
approximately ten years.
decree was modified multiple times, in part due to the
mother's methamphetamine addiction and its resulting harm
to K.S. In 2008, for example, the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) completed a founded child abuse report against
the mother for denial of critical care. DHS determined that
although the mother was not actively using methamphetamine in
the presence of K.S., the effects of methamphetamine were
still in her system while the mother was caring for K.S., and
supplies used to make methamphetamine were present in the
home. In 2009, the parties modified the custody provisions of
the decree requiring a one-year sobriety period before the
mother could have unsupervised visitation. The mother never
attempted to demonstrate sobriety and the father testified
the mother has never been sober from methamphetamine for a
period of one year. In 2011, the mother successfully moved to
modify the decree to receive more traditional visitation, and
the father testified that he attempted to give her a chance
at more visits.
2012, the DHS issued another founded child abuse report
against the mother based on methamphetamine use in the
presence of K.S. In 2013, the court entered a default
decree modifying the custody provisions so that the father
had sole discretion over visitation regarding the length,
time, and degree of supervision for each visit with K.S.
According to the father's testimony, the parties
attempted visitations between the mother and K.S. at the
father's home, but because the visits were stressful and
often ended in arguments, the father moved visits to the
maternal grandparents' home, pursuant to the decree
provisions. The parties planned a visit around Christmas in
2013 at the maternal grandparents' home but the mother
did not attend. Apart from the occasional text or Facebook
communication referencing visitation, the mother has not
attempted to schedule any official visitations at the
maternal grandparents' home or with any other qualified
supervisor since 2013. In fact, K.S. has not seen her mother
at an official visit since 2013. The father testified the
mother attempted unannounced, unsupervised visits when the
father and stepmother were not at home, which was in
violation of the most recent modification order.
mother's methamphetamine abuse was a factor during the
termination proceedings. In July 2016, nearly one month
before the termination trial, the mother left a voicemail for
the father stating she was arrested for possession of
methamphetamine. The disposition of the possession charge, if
any, is not a part of this record.
mother's substance-abuse issues have taken an emotional
and physical toll on K.S. throughout her childhood.
K.S.'s guardian ad litem (GAL) reports that K.S. has
trust and communication issues with the mother due to the
mother's methamphetamine use. Text messages and other
communications also indicate a failing relationship between
the mother and K.S. These communications were often in
violation of the most recent modification order. In the
communications, K.S. often expresses frustration and anger
based on the mother's threats, abrasive language,
inappropriate contact, and methamphetamine use. K.S. sought
treatment for depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts
based, in part, on K.S.'s difficulties with her mother.
The child's therapist raised concerns over the
mother's inappropriate behavior suggesting it is a source
of K.S.'s stress and anxiety.
years leading up to the termination trial, the mother and
father attempted to facilitate the stepmother's adoption
of K.S. On multiple occasions, the mother expressed consent
to termination, but she would often withdraw consent at the
last minute. In 2014, the mother told the stepmother,
"I'm asking you to adopt her, " and "just
mail the [consent] papers and you won't have to deal with
me anymore, " as indicated by multiple text messages.
The mother also expressed to K.S. that she wanted the
stepmother to adopt her. In fact, paperwork to execute the
termination and adoption was delivered to the mother in 2015
at her request. However, she never followed through and the
father testified he ...