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In re K.N.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 5, 2017

IN RE THE INTEREST OF K.N., Minor Child, S.T, Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court decision terminating her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Jane M. White of Jane M. White Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Erin M. Hardisty of the Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem and attorney for minor child.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court decision terminating her parental rights. We find (1) the mother did not timely appeal the permanency order and we do not consider her claims regarding the order in this appeal; (2) there is sufficient evidence to support termination of her parental rights; (3) termination is in the child's best interests; (4) it would not be in the child's best interests to give the mother an additional six months to work on reunification; and (5) the mother did not have standing to challenge the placement of the child after termination of her rights. We affirm the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         S.T., mother, and D.N., father, are the parents of K.N., who was born in 2015. The mother has a long history of substance abuse and criminal behavior. The child was born with methamphetamine in his system and was removed from the parents' care within days after birth and placed in foster care. The mother was on probation for theft at the time the child was born. Previously, her parental rights to five other children were terminated.

         The child was adjudicated to be in need of assistance (CINA), pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(n) and (o) (2015). The mother was inconsistent in attending visitation with the child. There was an incident of domestic violence between the parents during a supervised visit and a no-contact order was entered. In April 2016, there was another incident of domestic violence, this time with the mother as the perpetrator, and a new no-contact order was entered. Later that month, the mother twice tested positive for methamphetamine use. The mother's probation was revoked, and she was incarcerated on April 25, 2016.

         In granting a motion for a continuance of a permanency hearing, the juvenile court issued an order on June 13, 2016, stating, "The mother, [S.T.] is incarcerated at the Polk County Jail. The mother has changed her mind, several times, regarding whether she wanted to be present for the hearing. The court therefore orders that she be transported to Courtroom 209B for this hearing." The mother filed a motion to enlarge and amend, which was still pending at the time of the permanency hearing on June 16, 2016. The mother was transported to the permanency hearing and, when questioned by the court, stated she wanted to remain at the hearing. In the permanency order, filed on June 27, 2016, the court denied the motion to enlarge and amend. The mother filed a second motion to enlarge and amend on July 7, 2016, and this was also denied by the juvenile court on July 8, 2016.

         The State filed a petition on July 7, 2016, seeking to terminate the parents' rights. Fourteen hours before the termination hearing, which was held on September 22, 2016, the mother filed a motion to modify the placement of the child. The mother asked to have the child placed with relatives in Texas rather than the current foster family. The court determined the motion should be considered at a later hearing.[1] The court also stated it would not consider an oral motion to intervene raised by the Texas relatives just prior to the termination hearing, ruling a written motion should be filed. A written motion to intervene was never filed in the case.

         On November 21, 2016, the juvenile court terminated the parents' rights under section 232.116(1)(e), (g), and (h) (2016). The court found termination was in the child's best interests and no exceptions to termination were applicable. The court found, "The parents have not even seen the baby since April 2016. K.N. has never lived with either parent or even had an unsupervised visit with either parent." In the termination order, the juvenile court denied the mother's motion to modify placement, finding (1) the mother no longer had standing to challenge the dispositional order; (2) the basis for the motion, section 232.102(1)(a)(1), ...


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