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In re S.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF S.M., Minor child, S.B., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Deborah F. Minot, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals from an order terminating her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2016). AFFIRMED.

          Andrew R. Wiezorek of Jacobson, Johnson, and Wiezorek, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

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

          Anthony Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         Sarrina, the mother of S.M., appeals from the district court's order terminating her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2016). Our review is de novo. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The statutory framework and burden of proof are both well established and need not be repeated herein. See id.; In re M.S., 889 N.W.2d 675, 679 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016).

         I.

         S.M. tested positive for THC at his birth in January 2016. The Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) became involved with the family.[1] IDHS asked the mother to go to substance-abuse treatment, obtain an evaluation of her mental health, and get a drug evaluation. She complied with all those requests.

         On March 8, 2016, IDHS received a report Sarrina had left S.M. alone with a sex offender, her then-paramour Pierre, in an apartment. Sarrina does not deny doing so but argues she only left the child alone while she ran across the hall to the landlord's office to pay her rent and get a receipt and was not gone for more than a few seconds. Sarrina believed Pierre was at work at the time. During the time she was gone, law enforcement responsible for checking on sex offenders came to the apartment complex. She had retrieved S.M. by the time the police officers confronted her but they had observed she did not have the child with her when she entered the apartment. An IDHS employee met with Sarrina to discuss implementing a safety plan. Then, and at trial, Sarrina defended Pierre, arguing offenders are frequently placed on the sex offender registry for frivolous offenses. The employee informed Sarrina removal was an option if a safety plan was not put in place. By the time the employee had gotten back to her office, Sarrina had called the employee to apologize and agree to cooperate with services, but the employee did not believe Sarrina was sincere.

         The next day, March 9, IDHS came to remove the child from Sarrina's care. Sarrina refused to release the child. IDHS engaged the services of law enforcement to remove the child from Sarrina's arms. According to the petition for termination of Sarrina's parental rights, Sarrina attempted to bite a police officer. As a result, she was charged with felony child endangerment, interference with official acts, and assault on a person in certain occupations. S.M. was removed from her care and placed in a foster home.

         Sarrina remained involved in the case. At a family team meeting on July 8, she was employed, was participating in therapy, had completed a mental-health evaluation, had completed a substance-abuse evaluation and was attending treatment, was attending doctor appointments with S.M., and visiting with the child. Her visits were moved to semi-supervised.

         Shortly thereafter, IDHS learned a release was no longer in place with Sarrina's substance abuse treatment center-that is, IDHS no longer had access to any information from the center. IDHS advised Sarrina to reinstate a release or visits would return to fully supervised. When no release was signed, visits were moved to fully supervised on July 21. ...


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