IN THE INTEREST OF R.D., I.D., and A.D., Minor children, C.R., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine
Dalton, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
L. Cox, Bettendorf, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kristi A. Traynor, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
T. Cobie of Brubaker, Flynn & Darland, P.C., Davenport,
guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
mother, C.R., started using illegal substances when she was
twelve years old, and she has been abusing drugs and alcohol
on and off since. She has six children, three of which are
the subject of this appeal-R.D., born in 2008; I.D., born in
2009; and A.D., born in 2010. The mother's other three
children have no relationship with R.D., I.D., and A.D.; the
two oldest children live with their maternal grandparents in
Virginia, and the youngest child was placed in foster care.
the father of R.D., I.D., and A.D. He has had ongoing custody
and care of the children since approximately 2012, and he
supervised visits between the mother and the children in his
home. He has a history of alcohol abuse, but he had been
sober for some time until December 2014, after it was
reported one of the children had been sexually abused by a
Iowa Department of Human Services (Department) became
formally involved with the family in February 2015. At that
time, the mother was participating in a substance abuse
treatment program and living at the provider's
residential facility. It was anticipated she would be
discharged in August 2015; however, she left the facility in
May 2015 before completing the program. The mother did not
maintain contact with the Department's caseworker
thereafter, and the mother's whereabouts were unknown for
most of the case. The mother had not seen the children since
approximately February 2015, except for one instance around
Christmas 2015 when she showed up at a gas station where the
father and children were and "made all sorts of false
promises to the children" that "resulted in
negative behaviors by all of the children."
were offered to the family, but the mother was not involved
with any reunification efforts. In September 2016, the State
filed petitions for termination of the mother's parental
rights to the three children. At the time of the
termination-of-parental-rights hearing in January 2017, the
mother was in jail, having been placed there December 1,
2016. The Department stated the mother had no contact with
the children since December 2015, but the mother testified
she saw the children in April 2016 and gave them Easter
baskets. The mother testified that she was again
participating in treatment through the jail and had been
sober since December 2, 2016. She testified she would be
successful this time because she had a plan, and she
requested additional time for reunification since
reunification efforts with the father were still ongoing. The
juvenile court subsequently entered its order terminating the
mother's parental rights.
mother now appeals. She does not challenge the grounds for
termination found by the juvenile court or assert the
exceptions to termination apply here. See In re
P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010) (stating we do not
have to discuss any step of the three-step analysis the
juvenile court must decide in the process of terminating a
parent's parental rights if the step was not challenged
by the parent on appeal). Rather, she argues termination of
her parental rights was not in the children's best
interests pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(2) (2016).
Specifically, she contends the father's ongoing issues
and the children's removal from his care means the
children's permanent placement has yet to be determined,
and therefore termination of her parental rights was not in
the children's best interests. She also argues the
children should not be separated from their two older
siblings who live in Virginia. Upon our de novo review,
see In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014), we
agree with the juvenile court that termination of the
mother's parental rights is in the children's best
232.116(2) sets forth the framework for determining whether
termination of parental rights is in a child's best
interests. See P.L., 778 N.W.2d at 37. "The
primary considerations are 'the child's safety, '
'the best placement for furthering the long-term
nurturing and growth of the child, ' and 'the
physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs of the
child.'" Id. (citation omitted). With these
considerations in mind, the juvenile court concluded:
Termination of parental rights and adoption provides a full
time legal committed parent to these children. It is unknown
whether their father will meet this need for the children. .
. . He is the only parent the children have known for the
past year and a half. His relationship with them may be
irreparably harmed by his recent failure. However, his recent
failure has little bearing on whether or not [the
mother's] parental rights should be terminated. ...