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In re J.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 17, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.R. and E.W., Minor Children, K.P., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Susan F. Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Patricia J. Meier of Nidey Erdahl Tindal & Fisher, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Robert W. Davison, Cedar Rapids, for minor children.

          Robert B. Fischer of Robert B. Fischer Law Firm, Vinton, for father of J.R.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights, [1] arguing termination is not in the children's best interests due to the closeness of the parent-child bond and the fact that the children are in a relative placement.

         We review termination proceedings de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014).

         "Termination of parental rights under chapter 232[2] follows a three-step analysis." In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). First, we determine if a ground for termination under section 232.116(1) has been established. Id. at 706-07. We then apply the statutory best-interest framework set out in section 232.116(2) to decide if the grounds for termination should result in a termination of parental rights. Id. at 707. Finally, we consider if any statutory exceptions set out in section 232.116(3) should serve to preclude termination of parental rights. Id.

         The mother does not contest that grounds for termination exist, [3] so we need not discuss this step. See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010).

         The statute informs us that in determining whether termination is in the children's best interests, we are to "give primary consideration to the child[ren]'s safety, to the best placement for furthering the long-term nurturing and growth of the child[ren], and to the physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs of the child[ren]." Iowa Code § 232.116(2). Determining the best interests of the children "requires considering what the future holds for the child[ren] if returned to the parents." In re C.K., 558 N.W.2d 170, 172 (Iowa 1997). "When making this decision, we look to the parent['s] past performance because it may indicate the quality of care the parent is capable of providing in the future." Id.

         Here, the mother continues to struggle with a long history of unresolved mental-health and substance-abuse issues, which struggle places the children at risk of inadequate supervision. The mother contends: "Given the closeness of the relationship between [the mother] and the children, and the fact that [the mother] has only just begun to seriously address her mental health, it would be in the children's best interests to afford [the mother] several more months to make progress." We disagree.

         The children have been waiting longer than the statutory time frame, and the mother has only "just begun" to address her issues. "[O]ur legislature has carefully constructed a time frame to provide a balance between the parent's efforts and the child[ren]'s long-term best interests." D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 707. Waiting for fourteen ...


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