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In re A.L.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 13, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.L., L.L., P.H., and B.H., Minor Children, H.H., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Gary P. Strausser, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental relationship with four children. AFFIRMED.

          Jeffrey L. Powell of The Law Office of Jeffrey L. Powell, P.L.C., Washington, for appellant mother.

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

          Christine E. Boyer, Iowa City, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         "I don't think that I have a problem." This testimony from Holly, a mother who denied that substance abuse remained an obstacle to reuniting with her children, did not ring true for the juvenile court.[1] The court ended Holly's parental relationship with four children: seventeen-year-old A.L., eleven-year-old L.L., seven-year-old P.H., and five-year-old B.H.[2] Holly challenges the court's order both on the statutory grounds for termination and on the best-interests determination. She asks for additional time for reunification. After examining the record and the law, we defer to the juvenile court's credibility findings and reach the same conclusions regarding the welfare of the children.[3]

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in early December 2015 based on a report Holly and her paramour were using methamphetamine while caring for the children. According to the DHS investigation, Holly expressed paranoid beliefs and would stay up all night before crashing and sleeping for the entire day.[4] The youngest child, B.H., tested positive for exposure to methamphetamine. Because Holly had not paid the water bill or rent, the family faced the loss of utilities and possible eviction.[5]The children went to live with Holly's sister and remained in their aunt's home throughout the case.

         In April 2016, the juvenile court adjudicated A.L., L.L., P.H., and B.H as CINA, finding they were "imminently likely to suffer adjudicable harm due to their mother's use of methamphetamine." In May 2016, Holly underwent a substance-abuse evaluation, which concluded she met "the criteria for amphetamine use disorder/mild and unspecified cannabis use disorder." Holly did not complete the recommended outpatient treatment.

         Holly and her paramour did not have steady employment or housing during the summer and fall of 2016. They were evicted from a rental house in August, lived at a motel for several months, and then moved in with relatives.

         Drug use continued to be an issue. In September 2016, Holly tested positive for methamphetamine, and the next month, she tested positive for amphetamines, which the treatment staff attributed to methamphetamine use. But Holly continued to deny using drugs. Holly refused to undergo further drug testing until February 2017. She also revoked the releases allowing the treatment provider to share information with the DHS.

          Holly was inconsistent in her visitations with the children.[6] In the words of the DHS worker: "[S]he really ebbs and flows." Holly missed five of the ten offered ...


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