IN THE INTEREST OF C.H., Minor Child, B.H., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Louise M.
Jacobs, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals an order terminating her parental rights.
Hardy, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Wolle of the Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des
Moines, for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
mother appeals a juvenile court order terminating her
parental rights to her child, C.H., born in
2016. She argues the juvenile court erred in
terminating her parental rights, concluding termination was
in the best interest of the child, and declining to apply a
statutory exception to termination.
mother and child came to the attention of the Iowa Department
of Human Services (DHS) in July 2016 upon information that
the mother and other occupants of the family residence were
using methamphetamine while caring for the child. DHS
discovered the mother was the subject of an active arrest
warrant. The mother was arrested, and an order removing the
child from her legal custody was entered. Shortly thereafter,
the child tested positive for methamphetamine exposure. The
child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) in
August 2016. In June 2017, the juvenile court terminated the
mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(h) and (l) (2017).
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
noted, the juvenile court terminated the mother's
parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h)
and (l). "On appeal, we may affirm the juvenile
court's termination order on any ground that we find
supported by clear and convincing evidence." In re
D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010).
section 232.116(1)(h), the court may terminate parental
rights if it finds the State has proved by clear and
convincing evidence the child (1) is three years of age or
younger; (2) has been adjudicated 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 termination hearing.
mother only challenges the State's establishment of the
final element. She argues, because of the stability she has
attained and the progress she has made with her
substance-abuse issues, the juvenile court should have
concluded the child could have been safely returned to her at
the time of the termination hearing.
mother has a lengthy history of illegal substance abuse,
criminal behavior, and surrounding herself with individuals
who engage in the same. At the time of the termination
hearing, the mother was undergoing inpatient- recovery
treatment at Clearview Recovery as a condition of her
probation in a criminal matter. She had completed six weeks
of the four-to-six-month program and was on "stage
one" of three stages. She obviously had a long way to go
in the program, and whether she would be successful was yet
to be seen, especially in light of her prior completion of
other substance-abuse programs, all of which were followed by
relapse upon her return to the community. Apparently based on
the mother's initial progress at Clearview, one of the
substance-abuse counselors testified that, at the time of the
hearing, the mother was ready to progress to semi-supervised
visits with the child rather than fully-supervised visits.
The mother also testified to her belief that she was ready to
"progress" the child back into her care by