IN THE INTEREST OF I.A., Minor Child, L.F.H., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine
Dalton Ploof, District Associate Judge.
mother challenges the termination of her parental
relationship with her now three-year-old daughter. AFFIRMED.
E. Coyle of Carrie E. Coyle, P.C., Davenport, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Drew-Peeples of Drew-Peeples Law Firm, Davenport, guardian
ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
need to be gatekeepers." In that nub of its ruling, the
juvenile court explained why three-year-old I.A. cannot be
safely reunited with her mother, Laura. In its order
terminating parental rights, the juvenile court offered a
balanced accounting of Laura's strengths and weaknesses
as a parent. But ultimately the court decided Laura's
inability to assess the risk of harm posed by dangerous
individuals stood in the way of reunification with her
daughter. After reviewing the record,  we reach the same
decision as the juvenile court and affirm the termination
challenges the statutory grounds for termination and alleges
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) did not live up
to its mandate to provide best efforts toward reunification
because the caseworker failed to increase visitation.
Highlighting her strong bond with I.A., Laura also argues
termination was not in the child's best interests.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
mother, Laura, has mild intellectual disabilities and has
been diagnosed with anxiety, panic disorder, narcissistic
personality traits, and depression. The juvenile court
determined that Laura's mental-health issues have led her
to make "extremely bad choices" concerning the
well-being and safety of her daughter. In August 2015, the
DHS received reports of mutual domestic violence occurring
between Laura and her boyfriend Chad while I.A. was present. In
November 2015, authorities removed then one-year-old I.A.
from Laura's care. The removal order noted the turbulent
relationship between Laura and Chad, as well as Chad's
history of child abuse. The DHS placed I.A. with a
foster-care family where she has stayed for the duration of
the case. In early March 2016, the juvenile court adjudicated
I.A. as a child in need of assistance (CINA) under Iowa Code
section 232.2(6)(c)(1), 232.2(6)(c)(2), 232.2(6)(d), and
time of the CINA adjudication, the mother was not attending
to her mental-health needs and was abusing controlled
substances. But after the adjudication, Laura embraced the
services offered by the DHS. Her FSRP (family safety, risk
and permanency) worker recalled Laura's "willingness
to participate in anything suggested" to help her become
a better parent. The FSRP worker also found Laura was
well-prepared, "very attentive, " and nurturing
during her supervised visitations with I.A.
permanency order issued in late December 2016, the juvenile
court expressed its belief that Laura "could actually
reunify with her daughter if given additional time." The
court noted Laura was attending to her mental-health needs,
had ended her relationship with Chad, and completed
substance-abuse treatment. The court continued: "Most
significant is that Laura demonstrates good parenting in a
supervised setting." But the court also sounded concerns
about the mother's continuing "chaotic"
personal relationships and her struggle to maintain her
January 2017 report, I.A.'s guardian ad litem (GAL)
highlighted some additional worries about Laura's
stability. Notably, Laura was pregnant and involved with a
new paramour, but she had not provided the DHS with
background information about any individuals who might have
interactions with I.A. The GAL also expressed concern that Laura
was "currently not addressing her mental health issues
with therapy." Considering the ...