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In re H.L.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF H.L., Minor Child, M.L., Mother, Appellant, S.L., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Peter B. Newell, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their one-year-old daughter.

          Shanna M. Chevalier of Laird & Luhring, Waverly, for appellant mother.

          Mark A. Milder of Mark Milder Law Firm, Waverly, for appellant father.

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

          Elizabeth A. Batey of Vickers Law Office, Greene, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         H.L. is now one year old. She has never lived with her biological parents, having been removed from their care days after her birth. The juvenile court order terminating parental rights described mental-health issues, unstable housing, refusals to participate in services, domestic violence, incarceration, and methamphetamine abuse as barriers to placing H.L. in the custody of her parents. The parents both challenge that order. After independently reviewing the record, we conclude none of the parents' arguments warrant relief. Accordingly, we affirm on both appeals.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         This family's involvement with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) predated H.L.'s birth in March 2016. The DHS found the mother, Mercedes, and her then live-in boyfriend responsible for physical abuse against Mercedes's oldest daughter, who was airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City for treatment in 2014 after the one-year-old was found unresponsive with cigarette burns and bruising "all over" her body. The juvenile court terminated Mercedes's rights to that child and another daughter in October 2015. By the time of those termination proceedings, Mercedes was married to Steve, who was not the father of her two older daughters.

         H.L. is the child of Steve and Mercedes. She was born with RH alloimmunization hemolytic disease causing jaundice and anemia, which is a serious blood-type incompatibility between mother and baby. At birth, H.L. required intensive care and blood transfusions. Hospital staff members were concerned Steve and Mercedes were unable to meet H.L.'s medical needs. H.L. was removed from her parents' care four days after birth and left the hospital for placement in foster care. The court adjudicated H.L. as a child in need of assistance (CINA) in early April 2016.

         Over the next seven months, Steve and Mercedes regularly attended supervised visitations with H.L. and forged a close bond with their daughter. But outside of those visits, the parents made little progress in addressing the underlying mental-health, substance-abuse, and stability issues identified by the DHS and the juvenile court. Both parents had diagnoses of mental illness that were not fully addressed. The DHS case worker testified the parents had resided in at least six different locations that she was aware of in the past seven months, and often did not reveal to the DHS where they were staying. Neither parent secured steady employment. Both parents tested positive for methamphetamine late in the CINA case and belatedly reported domestic violence in their relationship.

         In October 2016, the State petitioned for termination of parental rights; the juvenile court held a hearing on the petition on January 6 and February 17, 2017. On the second day of the hearing, both parents were incarcerated for probation violations and had been transported to court from separate jails in neighboring counties. On February 22, 2017, the juvenile court filed an order terminating Mercedes's parental rights under Iowa Code section ...


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