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In re K.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 19, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF K.M., Minor Child, R.M., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Page County, Amy L. Zacharias, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Justin R. Wyatt of Woods & Wyatt, P.L.L.C., Glenwood, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tabitha J. Gardner, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Vicki R. Danley, Sidney, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MULLINS, Presiding Judge.

         A mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights to her child, K.M., born in 2011.[1] She argues the State failed to prove the statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence and the juvenile court erred in determining reasonable efforts had been made to reunify her with her child.

         The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in May 2015 when the child sustained an injury near his right eye when the mother threw a water bottle at him because she was angry. The mother reported that, a week prior to this injury, she had thrown a box at her child that left a bruise.

         In January 2017, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2016).[2] We review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo. In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). "We are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, but we do give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses." Id. (quoting In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014)). Our primary consideration is the best interests of the child. In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006).

         Under section 232.116(1)(f), the court may terminate parental rights if the court finds the State has proved by clear and convincing evidence the child (1) is four years of age or older; (2) has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA); (3) has been removed from the physical custody of the parent for at least twelve of the last eighteen months, or the last twelve consecutive months and any trial period at home has been less than thirty days; and (4) cannot be returned to the parent's custody at the time of the termination hearing.

         The mother does not dispute the State proved the first three elements required under section 232.116(1)(f): At the time of the termination hearing, the child was over the age of four, had been adjudicated CINA in July 2015, and had been removed from the mother's physical custody since May 2015 without any trial periods at home. Instead, the mother argues DHS failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify her with her child-that is, the State failed to prove the child could not be returned to her custody at the time of the termination hearing. See In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 493 (Iowa 2000) ("The State must show reasonable efforts as a part of its ultimate proof the child cannot be safely returned to the care of a parent [at the time of the termination hearing].").

         The State must make reasonable efforts to reunify the family as quickly as possible after a child has been removed from his or her parents' care and custody. Iowa Code § 232.102(7). In determining whether reasonable efforts have been made, the court considers "[t]he type, duration, and intensity of services or support offered or provided to the child and the child's family." Id. § 232.102(10)(a)(1). "[T]he nature and extent of visitation is always controlled by the best interests of the child." In re M.B., 553 N.W.2d 343, 345 (Iowa Ct. App. 1996).

         The mother complains the required Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) program was not a good fit for her and presented an unreasonable barrier to reunification. She also claims she was never ...


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