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In re J.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 11, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.M., Minor Child, J.L., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Daniel L. Block, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         Mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017). REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Linda A. Hall of Linda Hall Law Firm & Mediation Services, P.L.L.C., Cedar Falls, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Joslyn N. Sailer of Sailer Law, PLLC., Waterloo, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Jazie, the mother, appeals from an order terminating her parental rights in her child, J.M., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (h), and (l) (2017). On appeal, the mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting each of the grounds authorizing termination of her parental rights. She also contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts to facilitate reunification of the family and termination is not in the best interest of J.M.

         I.

         This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the juvenile court in February 2016 when police responded to a complaint regarding the conduct of an occupant in a local hotel. In responding to the complaint, the police found Jazie and her paramour in the hotel room with J.M. The teenaged Jazie was staying in the hotel for a week while she was transitioning into a new residence. At the time the police found her in the hotel, Jazie had been self-medicating with marijuana. Two of her close friends had recently committed suicide. She had suffered and was suffering from medical issues that restricted her physically and caused her to lose her employment due to non-attendance. The police found marijuana and a handgun. Jazie testified the handgun belonged to her paramour. Jazie and her paramour were arrested and charged with child endangerment and possession of a controlled substance. IDHS removed J.M. from Jazie's care at that time.

         The child was adjudicated in need of assistance in March of 2016. At that time, IDHS put in place a plan for services to reunify Jazie and J.M. The services included mental-health treatment, substance-abuse treatment, parenting classes, and visitation, among other things. At the time of the adjudication hearing, Jazie was nineteen years old and J.M. was one year old.

         Jazie made significant progress toward reunification with the child. She terminated her relationship with the paramour. She began mental-health and substance-abuse treatment. She obtained steady employment, including one full-time management position and a second part-time position. She obtained her own residence. The Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP) care coordinator testified the residence was safe and appropriate for the child. Jazie attended parenting classes, applied the lessons learned, and bettered her parenting skills. The FSRP care coordinator testified the visits between Jazie and J.M. improved greatly. Her visits moved from supervised to semi- supervised.

         Jazie suffered a setback in the fall and winter of 2016. In September, she tested positive for use of marijuana. Her visits were moved from semi- supervised back to supervised. Nonetheless, in November 2016, the juvenile court deferred permanency pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.104(2)(b) because of Jazie's "increased participation in services and follow through." Jazie continued with her services after the permanency hearing. She also continued with visitation three times a week for three hours each visit. However, she tested positive for marijuana three times between December 2016 and ...


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