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In re C.E.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF C.E., Minor Child, A.E., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Montgomery County, Amy L. Zacharias, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her now-one-year-old son. AFFIRMED.

          Justin R. Wyatt of Woods & Wyatt, P.L.L.C., Glenwood, for appellant mother.

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

          Karen L. Mailander of Mailander Law Office, Anita, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          TABOR, Judge.

         A mother, Ashley, appeals the juvenile court's order terminating her parental relationship with now-one-year-old C.E. Her main argument for reversal is that the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) placed too much emphasis on a September 2015 psychological evaluation expressing the pessimistic view that her parenting deficiencies would not improve over time. Ashley also contends the DHS incorrectly believed her speech impediment-a motor-skills disorder called apraxia-constituted an intellectual disability that hindered her parenting skills. After independently reviewing the record, [1] we conclude neither of those issues clouded the juvenile court's judgment in the child-welfare proceedings. Like the juvenile court, we find clear and convincing evidence in the record to support terminating Ashley's parental rights to her son.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Born in late July 2016, C.E. was removed from the care of his mother while still in the hospital. The removal was prompted by the concerns of a child protection worker who had observed Ashley struggling to meet the basic needs of her older child, J.E., who had been previously removed from Ashley's care.[2]The child protection worker described Ashley's "disengagement" during interactions with J.E.-Ashley would "be texting even while feeding" the baby and "slightly slapped [J.E.'s] hand and said 'bad girl' while [J.E. was] drinking her bottle." The DHS exhibit in support of C.E.'s removal also included the following quotations from a psychological evaluation of Ashley completed by Dr. Rosanna Jones-Thurman on September 14, 2015:

[T]he examiner believes that [Ashley] will continue to show obviously the low cognitive functioning, which will not change over time, but a minimization of responsibility and accountability, as well as not acknowledging some of the issues and problems as they are. Certainly there appear to be difficulties with understanding correct parenting and Ashley really shows no emotion here today.
Certainly there appear to be some significant mental health issues and problems here that will not go away with any amount of counseling or education. At this point in time, the examiner would not recommend that [Ashley] have her child back even with family supervision as it appears that there are too many negative and hostile dynamics within the family as well.

         At the hearing on C.E.'s removal in early August 2016, Ashley's attorney complained the State "cherry picked" language from Dr. Jones-Thurman's report favorable to its position. In its temporary-removal order, the court approved a second psychological evaluation for Ashley "to determine if there has been any progress made." C.E. was placed with a foster family.

         In September 2016, Ashley had three two-hour supervised visits with C.E. each week. The Boys Town FSRP (family safety, risk and permanency) worker allowed Ashley's mother and sister to attend the interactions. According to the FSRP reports, Ashley struggled with calming C.E. when he was fussy and passed him to her mother when he cried. On September 22, 2016, the juvenile ...


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