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In re S.T.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF S.T., I.T., L.A., D.A., and M.A., Minor Children, J.T, Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Gary K. Anderson, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), (f), (h), (i), and (l) (2016). AFFIRMED.

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender Office, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Maura C. Goaley, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         The mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), (f), (h), (i), and (1). She argues the State failed to satisfy the statutory grounds for termination and reasonable efforts were not made to reunite the children with her. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On May 2, 2015, the children came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) when law enforcement removed the children from the mother's house because methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were found in the home accessible to the children. During the investigation, the mother admitted using methamphetamine routinely. All children were placed in out-of-home care. The mother was called for random drug screens on May 27 and June 11, 2015, but she did not submit a sample on either date.

         On June 3, 2015, the juvenile court adjudicated S.T., I.T., L.A., D.A., and M.A. as children in need of assistance (CINA). The court found the mother's drug use limited her capacity to "provide a safe environment for their children." Visitations were ordered at the discretion of DHS. However, I.T.'s and L.A.'s therapist recommended suspending visitations out of concerns the contact was triggering negative behaviors based on past traumatic experience, including alleged sexual molestation. A hearing was held on the issue, and on October 15, 2015, visitation was suspended.

         The mother was also offered a variety of services, including inpatient substance-abuse treatment. However, on September 25, 2015, one week after beginning inpatient treatment, the mother walked out after a positive drug screen. The mother also scheduled treatment at another facility, but she failed to attend. Records show the mother has not participated in any drug testing with DHS.

         Sometime in early 2016, the mother was charged with theft. Her charges eventually led to incarceration in the Pottawattamie County jail with a scheduled release date of February 1, 2017. During her incarceration, visitation remained suspended, but the court allowed the mother to communicate with the children by mail through the children's therapist. The mother was released from jail in January 2017.

         A termination hearing was held on February 21, 2017. At the time of the termination trial, S.T. was two years of age; I.T. was four years of age; L.A. was seven years of age; D.A. was nine years of age; and M.A. was eleven years of age. The children had been in out-of-home placement since May 2015. The court heard testimony from Steven Rief, case manager for DHS. Rief recommended termination of the mother's parental rights, and he testified substance abuse was the "the ongoing barrier" to reunification. He stated the mother failed to complete elements of the case plan that were critical to reunification, including substance-abuse treatment, therapeutic visitation, mental-health services, and drug testing through DHS.

         The court also heard testimony from the mother. During her incarceration, the mother stated she completed a reactive behavior and rehabilitation program. She also stated that she is receiving treatment and medication for her mental-health issues. She testified that she had been sober since she was ...


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