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In re A.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 13, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.W., Minor Child, J.W, Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to her child, A.W., born in March 2015. AFFIRMED.

          Monica L. Cameron of Cameron Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          Kimberly S. Ayotte of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         The mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to her child, A.W., pursuant to Iowa Code Section 232.116(1)(g) and (h) (2017). The mother claims: (1) the State failed to prove the statutory factors; (2) the court erred in denying a six-month permanency extension; (3) termination is not in the best interests of A.W.; (4) the mother's bond with the child precludes termination; (5) the juvenile court erred in denying the mother's motion to continue; and (6) the juvenile court erred in denying the mother's request to appoint new counsel. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In March 2015, A.W. came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) upon a report the child was born with methamphetamine in their system. On March 13, a removal order was issued, and A.W. was placed with relatives.[1] On March 23, the court held a removal hearing and the mother stipulated to the continued removal of A.W. However, the court placed A.W. in foster care, as the relatives refused to provide requested drug screenings. In its removal order, the court found the mother had a history of substance abuse.

         On April 20, A.W. was adjudicated as a child in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2), (n), and (o) (2015). At the adjudication hearing, the mother stated she had relapsed on alcohol and methamphetamine since the removal hearing. The mother also reported she was asked to leave her rehabilitation facility temporarily because a breathalyzer test was positive for alcohol.

         On May 22, the mother requested A.W.'s return to her custody in a contested dispositional hearing. The juvenile court found the mother was participating in rehabilitative services and making positive steps towards recovery. The court stated, "The court does not want this finding to detract from the mother's recent progress and believes the child will be returned . . . if she continues to comply with services and maintains sobriety." The juvenile court, however, confirmed out-of-home placement for A.W in its order, citing the mother's "substantial history of substance abuse issues" and recent alcohol and methamphetamine relapses. On September 10, the court continued the scheduled permanency hearing, stating a "hearing is not required and the mother has continued to make progress and expanded visitation has started. All parties are in agreement to schedule the hearing from permanency to a review hearing."

         On September 25, the State filed a motion to modify disposition requesting A.W. be returned to the mother's care. The State claimed, "[T]he mother has addressed the safety concerns that led to the removal of the child from her care. The mother has fully cooperated and participated in services. She is currently residing at Hope Ministries." On September 28, the court granted the State's motion and placed A.W. in the custody of the mother "so long as mother resides at Hope Ministries." The court also found the child could not be placed with the father due to ongoing substance-abuse issues and unstable housing.

         Custody of A.W. remained with the mother, and she transitioned from a rehabilitative housing facility to independent housing. However, in August 2016, the State received information from DHS that the mother tested positive for methamphetamine.[2] The State filed another motion to modify placement on August 25 and recommended placement with A.W.'s prior foster family. In its motion the State claimed, "DHS has received results for mother's sweat patch from August 10, 2016, that was positive for methamphetamine. There are additional concerns regarding violations of the [no-contact order] between mother and father when father became incarcerated at the Polk County Jail towards the end of June 2016." The court granted the State's motion on August 25, and A.W. was again placed in foster care.

         A review hearing took place on September 22. The court adjusted its findings on the mother's rehabilitative progress as follows:

This matter was last reviewed early May of 2016, and at that time mother had successfully completed the Hope Ministry residential program and had obtained independent [housing] for herself and the child. At the time, the Court was not made aware of any concerns but reports received today indicate Hope Ministry had reported in April that mother was not consistently attending programing. At the time, mother was expected to be meeting weekly for aftercare services. Mother only attended two times in April, had one random contact in May with her treatment provider, and one contact in June.

         The mother also had troubling contact with the father. In June 2016, the police were called on two occasions when the father violated the no-contact order between himself and the mother. The juvenile court described the events:

In June of 2016, the police were called to mother's residence on two separate occasions due to father appearing and violating the no contact order. The first incident occurred on June 5, 2016, where father appeared at the apartment, kicked the door, called mother demeaning names, and punched in the window. The child was present in the home during this incident. Mother called the police and father fled the scene. A second incident occurred on June 17, 2016 . . . . Father appeared with a large kitchen knife in hand and accused mother of being in a relationship with [another man]. The man fled the home fearing for his safety and called the police. It is unclear where the child was during this incident. Father was arrested on June 20, 2016, [and is] currently in jail on charges related to these incidents. . . . On June 28, 2016, there was a phone call between the parents while Father was in jail. . . . During this call, Mother puts the child on the phone to speak with Father. The parents have another phone call the next day and fight throughout the call. Father is repeatedly verbally abusive to Mother but remains on the phone anyway. . . . The child is also present during this call.

         The court also found the mother relapsed on methamphetamine in August 2016 when she and A.W. tested positive for methamphetamine. The court ordered A.W. to remain in out-of-home ...


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