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In re Z.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 13, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF Z.R., Minor Child, C.R., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Craig M. Dreismeier, District Associate Judge.

         The mother appeals from an order terminating her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017). AFFIRMED.

          J. Joseph Narmi, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

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

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender Office, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         The juvenile court terminated Chelsea's parental rights in her child, Z.R., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (h), and (l) (2017). In this appeal, Chelsea challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the statutory grounds authorizing termination of her parental rights, argues the State failed to make reasonable efforts towards reunification, challenges the denial of her request to defer permanency for six months, challenges the determination that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of her child, and contends permissive considerations should preclude the termination of her parental rights.


         Chelsea is the biological mother of three children, J.M. (born 2005), L.S. (born 2009), and Z.R. (born 2015), and she is pregnant with a fourth child. She is married to Z.R.'s father, Justin.

         This family has a history of involvement with the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS). In 2014, prior to Z.R.'s birth, an assistance proceeding was opened when IDHS became aware Chelsea was using methamphetamine. J.M. and L.S. were removed from her care for a period of time. Ultimately, the case was closed, and J.M. and L.S. were returned to Chelsea's care.

         The instant case was initiated in October 2016. Chelsea was on probation after being convicted of child endangerment in 2014. Chelsea's probation officer reported Chelsea had not been complying with drug testing. Chelsea's probation officer also confirmed the one test Chelsea had provided showed a positive result for methamphetamine. Based on this information, all three children were removed from Chelsea's care. The juvenile court placed J.M. and L.S. with their respective biological fathers.[1] Upon removal, Z.R. tested positive for amphetamine, methamphetamine, opiates, and THC. The juvenile court placed Z.R. in foster care under the custody of IDHS. Chelsea was ordered to complete a substance-abuse evaluation, mental-health evaluation, sign a medical records release, and complete random drug screens.

         Chelsea made little progress in the months following removal. The children were adjudicated in need of assistance in December 2016. At that time, Chelsea had not yet completed a substance-abuse or mental-health evaluation. She denied she needed substance-abuse treatment. She had not complied with many of IDHS's drug-test requests. The tests she did complete showed positive results for THC, methamphetamine, and opiates. At the time of the dispositional order in January 2017, Chelsea had completed her substance-abuse evaluation, but she refused to comply with substance-abuse treatment recommendations. She continued to deny substance use despite testing positive for controlled substances and despite Chelsea's probation officer providing information showing Chelsea had received six different opiate prescriptions from three doctors the prior September.

         February and March were no better than December and January. Chelsea had not yet obtained a mental-health evaluation. She had not completed substance-abuse treatment. She continued to deny substance use, claiming her positive test results were false positives or were the result of involuntary or unknowing ingestion of controlled substances. For example, she contended unbeknownst to her someone put methamphetamine in a glass from which she was drinking. She was incarcerated for two separate probation violations. The first period of incarceration lasted a week. On the second occasion, Chelsea was arrested on March 9 and remained incarcerated until the second week of April. At that time, Chelsea was transitioned to a residential correctional facility. Her visitation with Z.R. was sporadic at best, and IDHS reduced visitation to once per week until Chelsea could demonstrate consistency. Pursuant to the request of Chelsea and Z.R.'s father, Z.R. was placed with a maternal aunt in Georgia. The maternal aunt had indicated a willingness to adopt Z.R. should reunification efforts fail.

         In April 2017, the State filed its petition to terminate Chelsea's parental rights. At around this same time, Chelsea began to show some progress. She obtained employment. She provided some clean drug tests. Nonetheless, the juvenile court terminated Chelsea's rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (h) and (l). In support of the order terminating parental rights, the juvenile court found Chelsea was unable to resume care of the child. Chelsea was in a ...

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