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In re M.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF M.C., Minor Child, K.S., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, DeDra L. Schroeder, Judge.

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

          Jane M. Wright, Forest City, for appellant mother.

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

          Crystal L. Ely of North Iowa Youth Law Center, Mason City, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MCDONALD, JUDGE

         The juvenile court terminated Kelly's parental rights in her child, M.C., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h) (2017). On appeal, Kelly argues: (1) there was not clear and convincing evidence to terminate her rights pursuant to section 232.116(1)(e); (2) the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) failed to make reasonable efforts towards reunification; (3) the juvenile court should have granted a six-month extension of time to work toward reunification; (4) termination of Kelly's parental rights was not in the best interest of M.C.; and (5) the juvenile court should have preserved the parent-child relationship pursuant to section 232.116(3).

         I.

         We review de novo proceedings terminating parental rights. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The legal framework for termination appeals is well established and need not be repeated in full herein. See id.; In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219-20 (Iowa 2016) (stating review is de novo and setting forth the applicable "three-step inquiry").

         A.

         Kelly first challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting termination of her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e). But she does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence authorizing termination of her parental rights pursuant to section 232.116(1)(h). "When the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile court's order on any ground we find supported by the record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa 2012).

         We conclude there is clear and convincing evidence supporting the termination of Kelly's rights pursuant to section 232.116(1)(h). As relevant here, the State must prove the child cannot be returned to the custody of the child's parent at the time of the termination. See Iowa Code 232.116(1)(h)(4). To make this determination, we ask if the child would remain a child in need of assistance or would be exposed to harm amounting to a new child-in-need-of-assistance adjudication. See id.; In re M.M., 483 N.W.2d 812, 814 (Iowa 1992). "We have interpreted this to require clear and convincing evidence the children would be exposed to an appreciable risk of adjudicatory harm if returned to the parent's custody at the time of the termination hearing." In re E.H., No. 17-0615, 2017 WL 2684420, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 21, 2017).

         IDHS has been involved with this family for some period of time with little success in resolving the issues giving rise to State intervention. Kelly is the biological mother of A.C. and M.C. A.C. was removed from Kelly's care in October 2015, shortly after A.C. tested positive for controlled substances. M.C. was born in July 2016. Like A.C., M.C. tested positive for controlled substances. M.C. was removed from Kelly's care two days after birth and placed in the same foster home as A.C. and has resided there since birth. Despite the receipt of numerous services, Kelly failed to show the ability to provide care for her children, and her rights in ...


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