IN THE INTEREST OF R.M. and E.P., Minor children, T.P., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F.
Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2016). AFFIRMED.
Deborah M. Skelton, Walford, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tabitha J. Gardner,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Jeannine L. Roberts, Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights in her
children, R.M. and E.P., pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(h) (2016). Tara contends the State failed to prove
the statutory ground authorizing the termination of her
parental rights and the termination of her parental rights is
not in the best interests of the children.
review proceedings terminating parental rights de novo.
See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The
statutory framework is well established. Pursuant to section
232.116(1), the State must prove a statutory ground
authorizing the termination of a parent's rights. See
In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 39 (Iowa 2010). Section
232.116(1) sets forth the harms the legislature has
determined to be of sufficient concern to justify the breakup
of the family unit. Second, pursuant to section 232.116(2),
the State must prove termination of parental rights is in the
best interest of the child. See id. Third, if the
State has proved both the existence of statutory harm and
termination of a parent's rights is in the best interest
of the child, the juvenile court must consider whether any
countervailing considerations set forth in section 232.116(3)
should nonetheless preclude termination of parental rights.
See id. These countervailing considerations are
permissive, not mandatory. See A.M., 843 N.W.2d at
113. "The court has discretion, based on the unique
circumstances of each case and the best interests of the
child, whether to apply the factors in this section to save
the parent-child relationship." In re D.S., 806
N.W.2d 458, 475 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011).
State has the burden to prove its case by clear and
convincing evidence. See Iowa Code § 232.96.
"Clear and convincing evidence is more than a
preponderance of the evidence and less than evidence beyond a
reasonable doubt." In re L.G., 532 N.W.2d 478,
481 (Iowa Ct. App. 1995). "It is the highest evidentiary
burden in civil cases." In re M.S., 889 N.W.2d
675, 679 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016). "It means there must be
no serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of a
particular conclusion drawn from the evidence."
Id. This significant burden is imposed on the State
to minimize the risk of an erroneous deprivation of the
parent's fundamental liberty interest in raising his or
her child. See Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 759
(1982). We therefore cannot rubber stamp what has come
before; it is our task to ensure the State has come forth
with the quantum and quality of evidence necessary to prove
each of the elements of its case. See id. at 769.
to the facts of this case. The family came to the attention
of the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) following
R.M.'s birth in 2013. The hospital staff perceived Tara
to have cognitive and functional impairment and was concerned
about Tara's ability to care for the child. Hospital
staff requested IDHS make an assessment to determine whether
to initiate assistance proceedings. A social worker conducted
an interview and assessment with Tara in the hospital. Tara
agreed to the initiation of assistance proceedings and the
receipt of services. Tara was allowed to leave the hospital
with R.M. in her care subject to the protective supervision
of IDHS. Tara subsequently stipulated R.M. was a child in
need of assistance within the meaning of chapter 232.
mother received a great number and variety of services in
support of her and the child, including psychological and
intelligence testing. The intelligence tests confirmed Tara
has significant cognitive and functional impairment. Her IQ
is 60, placing her in the bottom 0.4 percentile of all
adults. Her overall level of adaptive functioning is in the
bottom 1% of the population. Her capacity for commonsense
judgment was found to be particularly poor, again at the
bottom 1% of the population. Her cognitive and functional
impairment prevents her from planning and from being able to
assess the needs of others.
October 2014, IDHS concluded Tara could not safely care for
R.M. There were numerous incidents supporting the conclusion.
Of greatest import was the fact R.M. was observed to have
numerous, unexplained bruises and scrapes. Many of the
bruises and scrapes were on the child's forehead, cheeks,
legs, and buttocks. R.M. was removed from Tara's care and
placed in foster family care. Following R.M.'s placement
in foster family care, her injuries were notably reduced.
was born in January 2015, and he was immediately removed from