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In re A.K.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.K.S., Minor Child, N.S., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals a district court order terminating her parental rights to her child.

          Marcy J. Lundberg of Lundberg Law Firm, Indianola, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Karl Wolle of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother appeals a district court order terminating her parental rights to her child, born in 2013. She contends (1) the record lacks clear and convincing evidence to support the ground for termination cited by the district court and (2) termination is not in the child's best interests.

         I. Grounds for Termination

         The district court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2017), which requires proof of several elements including proof that the child cannot be returned to the mother's custody. On our de novo review, we agree with the district court that the State proved this ground.

         The child was removed from the mother's care in June 2016, based on the mother's methamphetamine use while serving as the child's primary caretaker. The child was subsequently adjudicated in need of assistance.

         The mother unsuccessfully attempted outpatient treatment. She was admitted to inpatient treatment but, according to the department of human services, "was not receptive to making healthy changes which would support her recovery." She chose to discharge from the ninety-day program within a month. On her discharge, she did not attend outpatient treatment as recommended and admitted to resuming methamphetamine use.

         Over the next several months, the mother continued to use methamphetamine. Nine months after the child's removal, she was admitted to another inpatient facility. At the first of three termination hearings eleven days later, she admitted to using marijuana and methamphetamine the day before she entered the facility. She asked for three additional months to facilitate reunification with her child. The district court granted the request and held the termination petition "pending" until a termination hearing two months later.

         At the second termination hearing, the mother testified to sixty-one days of sobriety and again sought additional time to facilitate reunification. The court again ...


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