IN THE INTEREST OF K.G., M.S., H.S., and J.M., Minor Children, R.S., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, William S.
Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights
in her four children. AFFIRMED.
Baird Krafka of Krafka Law Office, Ottumwa, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Erhardt of Erhardt & Erhardt, Ottumwa, guardian ad litem
for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
an appeal from an order terminating the mother's and
three fathers' respective rights in four children: H.S.,
born in 2005; M.S., born in 2006; K.G., born in 2013; and
J.M., born in 2015. Only the mother, Ruby, seeks appellate
review proceedings terminating parental rights de novo."
In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014) (citing
In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010)). The
statutory framework is well established. Pursuant to Iowa
Code section 232.116(1) (2016), the State must prove a
statutory ground authorizing the termination of a
parent's rights. See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33,
39 (Iowa 2010). Second, pursuant to section 232.116(2), the
State must prove termination of parental rights is in the
best interests of the children. See id. Third, if
the State has proved both the existence of statutory harm and
termination of a parent's rights is in the best interests
of the children, the juvenile court must consider whether any
countervailing considerations set forth in section 232.116(3)
should nonetheless preclude termination of parental rights.
See id. These countervailing considerations are
permissive, not mandatory. See A.M., 843 N.W.2d at
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
statutory grounds authorizing the termination of her parental
rights. The district court terminated the mother's
parental rights in her two older children pursuant to section
232.116(1)(f) and in the two younger children pursuant to
section 232.116(1)(h). As relevant here, section
232.116(1)(f) required the State to prove "that at the
present time the child[ren] cannot be returned to the custody
of the child[ren]'s parents as provided in section
232.102." Similarly, section 232.116(1)(h) required the
State to prove "that the child[ren] cannot be returned
to the custody of the child[ren]'s parents as provided in
section 232.102 at the present time." We have
interpreted these provisions to require clear and convincing
evidence the children would be exposed to an appreciable risk
of adjudicatory harm if returned to the parent's custody
at the time of the termination hearing. See In re
M.S., 889 N.W.2d 675, 680 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016).
Ruby was involved with the department of human services in
another proceeding. As relevant to this proceeding, the
family came to the attention of the department in June 2014
following a report of domestic violence involving Ruby and
her paramour Nick. One of the children suffered injuries
during this incident. During the course of the
department's investigation, Ruby tested positive for
methamphetamine. The children were removed from her care in
September of 2014 on concerns of domestic violence in the
home, illegal substance abuse in the home, and Ruby's
erratic behavior. Ruby's erratic behavior worsened, and
she was hospitalized in October 2014 for mental-health needs.
Specifically, Ruby suffered from delusions/hallucinations.
Shortly after her release from the hospital, Ruby commenced a
romantic relationship with Gary and moved in with him. In
March 2015, Ruby moved out of the residence she shared with
Gary. At that time, Gary reported Ruby had been using
methamphetamine. Initially, Ruby denied it. However, in June
2015, Ruby admitted using methamphetamine, and she asked the
department for assistance in entering a residential treatment
program. At the time she admitted to methamphetamine use, she
was pregnant with J.M., whose father is Gary.
her request for assistance, Ruby was admitted into a
residential treatment facility. H.S., M.S., and K.G. were
returned to her custody and care. In July 2015, J.M. was
born. He was hospitalized on three separate occasions shortly
after his birth for failure to thrive. It is unclear whether
some of the child's medical issues were caused by
Ruby's methamphetamine use during her pregnancy. What is
clear is that Ruby was unable to provide basic care and
feeding for the child without prompting and supervision.
During this same time period, Ruby began to miss her
scheduled appointments and sessions in the residential
treatment facility. Facility staff warned Ruby that she would
be discharged if she continued to miss her scheduled
appointments and sessions. The residential treatment facility
discharged Ruby ...