IN THE INTEREST OF B.T., Minor Child, N.T., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D.
Belcher, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals from the order terminating her parental
Bridget M. Bott of Bott Law Office, P.L.L.C., West Des
Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
E. Mayfield of the Youth Law Center, Des Moines, for minor
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
mother appeals from the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental rights to her child, B.T., born in
2015. She argues the State failed to prove the
statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing
evidence and the juvenile court erred in determining
termination was in B.T.'s best interest.
family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) in January 2015, shortly after B.T. was born
with a congenital heart defect and only one kidney. The
parents were homeless, with an ongoing history of
homelessness, and a history of domestic violence. The mother
had a history of not being able to meet her own medical needs
throughout her pregnancy and was being treated for scabies.
While the parents were staying at the hospital with B.T.,
they and B.T. were found to have lice and were treated.
2017, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental
rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2016). We
review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo.
In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016).
"We are not bound by the juvenile court's findings
of fact, but we do give them weight, especially in assessing
the credibility of witnesses." Id. (quoting
In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014)). Our
primary consideration is the best interests of the child.
In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006).
section 232.116(1)(h), the court may terminate parental
rights if the court finds the State has proved by clear and
convincing evidence the child (1) is three years of age or
younger; (2) has been adjudicated a child in need of
assistance (CINA); (3) has been removed from the physical
custody of the parent for at least six of the last twelve
months, or the last six consecutive months and any trial
period at home has been less than thirty days; and (4) cannot
be returned to the parent's custody at the time of the
mother does not dispute the State proved the first three
elements required under section 232.116(1)(h): at the time of
the termination hearing, the child was under the age of
three, had been adjudicated CINA in March 2015, and had been
removed from the mother's physical custody since March
2015 without any trial periods at home. The mother argues,
however, the State failed to prove the fourth element: the
child could not be returned to her custody at the time of the
termination hearing. Following the termination hearing in
April 2017, the juvenile court found:
The child has extensive medical needs and despite the mother
having completed the necessary training to care for the
child, the mother has not been able to demonstrate an ability
to do so if the child were returned to her home today. The
mother is not aware of child's specific medical needs or
necessary feeding. Further, the mother has not adequately
addressed her mental health or domestic violence issues to
prevent any further adjudicatory harm if the child were to be
the mother reported she has been compliant with taking her
medication to treat her borderline personality disorder
diagnosis, she admitted at trial that during the nearly
two-year duration of DHS involvement she had not been going
to mental-health therapy to address her borderline
personality disorder as recommended by DHS, but she claimed
to have an upcoming appointment. She admitted she has a
significant history of being the victim of domestic violence
but at the time of trial had been unable to arrange for any
help to address how to break a long cycle of repeated violent
relationships. The mother acknowledged B.T. requires extra
assistance with eating but was not aware of the child's
current feeding level, ...