IN THE INTEREST OF H.L., Minor Child, M.L., Mother, Appellant, S.L., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Peter B.
Newell, District Associate Judge.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
parental rights to their one-year-old daughter.
M. Chevalier of Laird & Luhring, Waverly, for appellant
A. Milder of Mark Milder Law Firm, Waverly, for appellant
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.
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.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
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.
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.
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.
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 ...