IN THE INTEREST OF L.C., Minor Child, K.L., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J.
Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
R. Purcell of Clemens, Walters, Conlon, Runde & Hiatt,
L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Patricia M. Reisen-Ottavi of Ottavi Law Firm, Dubuque,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
mother, Kara, is again before our court challenging the
termination of her parental rights. At issue today is
one-year-old L.C. Two months ago, we affirmed the juvenile
court's termination of Kara's parental relationship
with three older children based on her continuing struggle
with addiction. See In re K.L., No. 17-0346, 2017 WL
2465817, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 7, 2017) (opining
"[m]ethamphetamine is a scourge"). After
independently reviewing this record, we conclude Kara's bid
for reunification with L.C. also must fail.
appeal, Kara poses four questions: (I) did the State prove a
statutory ground for termination under Iowa Code section
232.116(1) (2017) by clear and convincing evidence? (II) did
the juvenile court err in denying her request for a six-month
extension? (III) was termination in L.C.'s best
interests? and (IV) did the court err in denying her
reasonable-efforts motion? We answer them respectively: yes,
no, yes, no. Accordingly, we affirm the juvenile court's
Kara and Douglas share a "chaotic and unstable history,
" according to a case manager for the Iowa Department of
Human Services (DHS). Kara has been the victim of domestic
violence perpetrated by Douglas. In addition, Kara has been
abusing methamphetamine for more than ten years. These issues
led to the removal of her three older children. The DHS case
plan for Kara did not allow Douglas to be at her residence if
the children were present.
was born in May 2016. At that time, Kara was living at the
Maria House, a transitional housing initiative, and was
participating in outpatient substance-abuse treatment. She
also began a trial home placement with the three older
children. In August she moved to her own apartment in
Dyersville with the four children. She successfully
discharged from substance-abuse treatment in September 2016.
October, everything fell apart. Douglas moved into the
apartment in violation of the DHS safety plan. The neighbors
heard screaming and fighting. Kara and others repeatedly
called the police to report domestic violence. Douglas and
Kara used methamphetamine together. Kara and L.C., then five
months old, both tested positive for the drug. All four
children were removed from Kara's care. Douglas was
incarcerated on November 1, 2016.
following months, Kara had supervised visitation with the
children. During a visitation in December 2016, the social
worker asked to do a walkthrough in Kara's home. Kara
then disclosed she had been out drinking with a man the night
before, he stayed overnight in her bedroom, and he had not
left before the scheduled 11:00 a.m. visitation. Kara was not
truthful with the DHS about the man's identity. An even
more alarming incident occurred at Kara's home in January
2016. Kara reported another man "allegedly overdosed at
her apartment." These incidents led the DHS case worker
to believe that even with Douglas out of the picture, Kara
was exercising bad judgment in her relationships. Also in
January, Kara received a recommendation that she undergo
inpatient substance-abuse treatment.
early February 2017, the juvenile court terminated Kara's
parental rights to her three older children. This development
hit Kara hard. In late February, she tried to enroll in two
different substance-abuse treatment centers but left both
inpatient facilities the same day she arrived. Kara later
blamed her lack of commitment on her teetering mental
health: "I felt completely hopeless. I had
just went through a termination hearing on my children.
Mentally, I just wasn't-I wasn't okay." She was
in jail on a probation violation for most of March 2017 and
did not have visitation with L.C. The court modified her bond
so that she could attend treatment. From jail, she was
transferred to a psychiatric unit at the local hospital and
from there to an inpatient treatment program.
after her admission to treatment, on April 4, 2017, the State
filed a petition to terminate her parental relationship with
L.C. About three weeks later, her attorney filed a motion for
continuance and extension of permanency, citing her
compliance with substance-abuse treatment and her intent to
discharge to Heart of Iowa, a facility where L.C. could be
placed with her while she continued treatment. On May 5, her
attorney filed a "motion for reasonable efforts, "
requesting L.C. be placed in Kara's care when she was