IN THE INTEREST OF R.W., Minor child, K.W., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark R.
Fowler, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
R. Anderson of Anderson Law Firm, Des Moines, and Rebecca G.
Ruggero, Davenport, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Capdevila, Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
DANILSON, Chief Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
child, R.W. The mother contends the State failed to prove
grounds for termination, termination is not in R.W.'s
best interests, her due process rights were violated, and
reasonable efforts were not made toward reunification.
Because we find the mother's fundamental right to a fair
hearing was not provided, we reverse and remand for a new
termination hearing before a different judge.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
was born in 2012. In September 2015, the mother was found
unresponsive in a parking lot and did not know where then
two-year-old R.W. was or who was caring for him. R.W. was
later located in a hotel room being cared for by a
thirteen-year-old girl. The mother tested positive for
cocaine. R.W. was removed following the incident. The mother
has longstanding substance-abuse and mental-health issues
that previously led to the termination of her parental rights
to three other children.
the concerning start to the child-in-need-of-assistance
(CINA) case, the mother made progress during its pendency and
was exercising visitation up to the day of the termination
hearing. After R.W.'s removal, the mother began complying
with services provided by the department of human services
(DHS) and participating in substance-abuse treatment and
mental-health counseling. Concerns remained, including the
mother's refusal to internalize her substance-abuse
problem, the one-time discovery of alcoholic beverages in the
mother's home, and the mother's association with a
known sex offender.
district court entered a permanency order on May 21, 2016,
granting the mother three additional months to seek
reunification. The termination petition was filed on July 13,
2016. The mother filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively,
to continue the termination hearing on August 4, 2016. The
termination hearing was held August 24, 2016. The district
court imposed a two-hour time limit on the termination
hearing. The court entered the termination order on October
17, 2016, terminating the mother's parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f), (h), and
(l) (2016), and placing R.W. in the care of his
paternal aunt as the child's guardian. The mother now
Standard of Review.
review the mother's due-process challenges to the
district court's termination ruling de novo. In re