IN THE INTEREST OF J.H., Minor Child, K.S., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for O'Brien County, David C.
Larson, District Associate Judge.
incarcerated mother appeals the termination of her parental
rights to her seven-year-old daughter. AFFIRMED.
F. Morgan of Klay, Veldhuizen, Bindner, De Jong &
Halverson, P.L.C., Paullina, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Shannon L. Sandy of Sandy Law Firm, P.C., Spirit Lake,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
mother, K.S., who was incarcerated at the time of the
termination-of-parental-rights hearing, appeals the juvenile
court's order severing her legal relationship with her
daughter, J.H. K.S. raises two issues on appeal: (1) the
Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) did not provide
reasonable efforts to reunify their family under Iowa Code
section 232.102(7) (2016) and (2) the juvenile court should
have declined to terminate under section 232.116(3)(c) based
on the strong mother-child bond. On the first issue, we find
the DHS made an adequate record showing its reasonable
efforts to facilitate visitation while K.S. was serving time
at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in
Mitchellville. On the second issue, the evidence was not
clear and convincing that termination would be detrimental to
J.H. because of the closeness of her relationship with K.S.
Accordingly, we affirm the juvenile court's
Facts and Prior Proceedings
appeal involves the future of now seven-year-old J.H. Her
mother, K.S., has a history of criminal offenses and
drug-related problems. For instance, K.S. spent time in jail
for illegal possession of prescription drugs in April and May
2013. In November 2013, her probation was revoked and she was
incarcerated for six months, until May 2014. K.S. also spent
ten days in jail in June 2014. When K.S. was incarcerated,
she relied on friends and family to care for
the summer of 2014, the DHS investigated a claim of child
abuse against K.S. involving her supervision of J.H., then
four years old, while the mother was abusing prescription
pain killers or other illegal drugs. The juvenile court
adjudicated J.H. as a child in need of assistance (CINA) in
September 2014 but left the child in her mother's care
after K.S. completed a substance-abuse evaluation and agreed
to treatment and random drug testing. K.S. gave birth to a
third child in February 2015.
was removed from her mother's care in June 2015 when K.S.
began serving an indeterminate ten-year prison sentence for
obtaining prescription drugs by deceit. J.H. was initially
placed with her father, but he was unable to provide her with
consistent care. J.H. has been living with the same foster
family since February 2016. Her guardian ad litem (GAL)
reported J.H.'s verbal skills and school performance have
significantly improved during that time. In the GAL's
view, J.H.-who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)-has benefited from the calm and
structured environment she has experienced in her foster home
distance between the foster home in Sheldon and the prison in
Mitchellville (more than 400 miles roundtrip) has made
arranging visitation difficult. J.H. had only three visits
with her mother in prison-once in January 2016 when a family
friend transported her, and twice in the summer of 2016 when
a caseworker made the trip. In May 2016, the juvenile court
continued permanency for six months based on the mother's
report that she would likely be paroled in November 2016. At
the time of those visits in June and July, K.S. was residing
in a halfway program outside the prison walls. But in August,
K.S. was returned to the main prison facility after being
accused of forging a time sheet, and in October 2016, her
request for parole was denied. She was not due for another
parole review until March 2017.
State filed a petition to terminate parental rights on
November 3, 2016, and the juvenile court heard testimony on
November 29. In an order issued on January 24, 2017, the
court terminated K.S.'s parental rights based on Iowa
Code section 232.116(1)(f). In K.S.'s petition appealing
that order, she does not challenge the statutory ground. In
the absence of a ...