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In re B.T.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 5, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF B.T., Minor child, A.P., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Louise M. Jacobs, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child.

          REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS. Zachary C. Priebe of Jeff Carter Law Offices, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          ConGarry D. Williams of the State Public Defender, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          DOYLE JUDGE.

         A.P. appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child, B.T., born in 2006.[1] She does not dispute that grounds for termination of her parental rights were established. Rather, she contends the juvenile court should have established a guardianship for the child with his maternal grandmother because termination of the mother's rights is not in the child's best interests and the statutory factors found in Iowa Code section 232.116(3) (2016) apply here, negating the need to terminate. Upon our de novo review of the record, see In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016), we agree. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the case to the juvenile court with directions.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The mother was born in 1989 and began abusing alcohol and drugs when she was twelve years old. Since the child's birth in 2006, a pattern has emerged wherein the mother is able to remain sober for a period of time-sometimes years at a time-followed by a relapse. When the mother has fallen off the wagon, the child's maternal grandmother (Grandmother), and at times the paternal grandmother, have intervened to care for the child.

         When the mother is sober, she is a dedicated and loving parent who shares a close relationship with the child. Yet, the mother has relapsed since the child's birth at least four times, including methamphetamine use in November 2009, opioid use in November 2012, methamphetamine use in April 2013, and most recently, heroin use in August 2015. Her most recent use led to the initiation of the present child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) case and the placement of the child in his Grandmother's care, with supervision by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), where the child has since remained.

         Services for reunification were offered to the parents, but by July 2016, the DHS recommended the parents' parental rights be terminated. At the August 2016 permanency hearing, the mother requested an extension of time for reunification. The court denied the mother's request and directed the State to file a petition for termination of parental rights, which the State subsequently filed. Thereafter, the mother was arrested for violating her probation and for committing fourth-degree theft. She was incarcerated until October 19, 2016, and then was admitted for residential treatment at a women's treatment facility.

         The termination-of-parental-rights hearing was held November 21, 2016. By all accounts, the mother's treatment was progressing, and she was on track to complete her established treatment goals. She was tentatively scheduled for discharge on December 9, 2016, at which time the mother would transition to a sober living facility for six to twelve months. During that time, the mother would be required to attend treatment and maintain employment.

         The mother testified at the hearing and admitted the child could not be returned to her care at that time. But rather than terminating her parental rights, she asked that the court grant the Grandmother guardianship of the child. The Grandmother also testified, and she was asked ...


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