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In re K.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF K.M., R.M., AND L.B., Minor Children, L.M., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D. Belcher, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights to her three children.

          Raya D. Dimitrova of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          John P. Jellineck of Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          MULLINS, Judge.

         A mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights to her three children: R.M., born in 2009; K.M., born in 2011; and L.B., born in 2015. She argues the State failed to prove the statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence, termination is not in the children's best interests, and the juvenile court should have granted her additional time to work toward reunification with her children. Upon our de novo review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The family has a history of involvement with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) dating back to 2012. The family again came to the attention of DHS in February 2015 due to the mother's continued mental-health issues and inability to provide for her children's special needs. The mother had reported she was overwhelmed and could no longer care for R.M. and K.M. by herself. At the time, the father was incarcerated and the mother was unemployed and not attending all of the children's medical appointments. The mother was observed to have poor parenting skills and would become easily frustrated with the children, admitting to verbally lashing out at her children and physically disciplining them. The family home was dirty, and the children were unkempt and not potty-trained. R.M. had missed a lot of school and was regularly tardy.

         In April 2015, the juvenile court adjudicated R.M. and K.M. children in need of assistance (CINA). Following the adjudication, the children remained in their mother's care and custody. Later that month, however, the mother requested the court remove the children from her care. R.M. and K.M. were removed from the mother's custody and placed in family foster care. The court also entered a dispositional order continuing placement of the children outside of the mother's home due to the mother's unresolved mental-health issues and her inability to care for the children.

         L.B. was born in October 2015. Shortly after her birth, the court ordered removal of L.B. from the mother's custody. L.B. was adjudicated CINA in December. The court noted the mother had been cooperative with services, had obtained suitable housing, was participating in visits with her children, and had reported engaging in mental-health services. However, she struggled with transportation and meeting obligations outside of her home.

         In April 2016, the juvenile court held a permanency hearing. The court noted the mother had engaged in mental-health therapy and medication management but not consistently. She also had not attended the children's medical appointments consistently and at times had not shown an interest in R.M.'s serious medical needs. However, the mother had made progress in that she had housing, was employed, and had family support. She was also exercising supervised visits with her children.[1] Following this hearing, the court granted the mother an additional six months to work toward reunification but ordered the children remain in their placement due to the mother's unresolved mental-health issues and the father's unresolved substance-abuse problems.

         In July, the mother informed DHS she was not able to function well at that time and needed to work on resolving her own problems before she could take care of her children. Following a permanency review hearing in August, the court modified the permanency goal to termination of parental rights. The court noted the mother had completed a substance-abuse evaluation regarding her use of alcohol. Outpatient treatment was recommended, but the mother only attended two treatment sessions before being unsuccessfully ...


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