IN THE INTEREST OF B.G., B.L., and T.H., Minor Children, K.G., Mother, Appellant, R.L., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan C. Cox,
District Associate Judge.
mother and one of the fathers appeal from the termination of
their parental rights.
G. Crabb, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
Cathleen J. Siebrecht of Siebrecht Law Firm, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and
mother's parental rights were terminated to three of her
five children.At issue in this appeal are B.L., born in
2008; B.G., born in 2009; and T.H., born in 2012. B.L.'s
father also appeals the termination of his parental
Background Facts and Proceedings.
mother is no stranger to interactions with the Iowa
Department of Humans Services (DHS). As a child, she was
involved with the department due her mother's use of
methamphetamine and other drugs. As a parent, the mother came
to the attention of DHS before the present proceedings began
in 2013. In 2009, DHS made a founded report for child abuse
after the mother was arrested for underage drinking and
possession of drug paraphernalia; DHS learned the mother had
taken B.L. to a known drug house a number of times. The
mother was also having trouble with B.L.'s father and
alleged domestic violence.
again involved with the family in 2011 when the mother's
third child, M.V., was born prematurely and died soon after.
At the time of his birth, the umbilical cord and the
mother's urine were tested for THC; both showed a
positive result. The mother admitted to using marijuana while
pregnant with M.V. but denied either B.L. or B.G. was in her
care at the time. She also reported she was no longer in a
relationship with M.V.'s father, stating he had been
domestically violent to her in the past and then again
recently. She did not notify the police.
2013, R.T. was born to the mother and a fifth father. R.T.
was born prematurely and struggled with respiratory and
feeding issues. When R.T. was approximately three months old,
he was rushed to the emergency room while in acute distress.
After extensive medical testing, doctors determined someone
had violently shaken R.T., inflicting serious head trauma
including brain bleeds and retinal hemorrhages. R.T. was
flown from Des Moines to Iowa City and underwent emergency
neurosurgery. R.T.'s father admitted he was caring for
the child (in the mother's home) immediately before R.T.
quit breathing. R.T.'s father was charged with child
endangerment causing serious injury and was later found
mother refused to believe the medical evidence that
R.T.'s injuries were the result of being shaken and
refused to comply with the no-contact order prohibiting
contact between her and the father. The mother admitted she
knew R.T.'s father had at least one previous conviction
for domestic violence. Still, she maintained contact with him
and allowed the children to have contact with R.T.'s
father as well.
result, in November 2013, the children's guardian ad
litem asked the court to remove the children from the mother
based on the "mother's instability and protective
concerns due to . . . contact with substance abusers and
violating [the no-contact order]." The mother's four
living children were removed from her care. T.H., who had
been born in 2012, was originally placed in the custody of
his father but within a month, T.H. was removed from the
father's care and placed with his paternal
mother completed a mental-health evaluation the same month.
She disclosed a history of being physically abused as a child
and having one violent romantic relationship. She reported
having ended the relationship with R.T.'s father because
"he just focused on himself" and did not seem
interested in her welfare. The social worker who completed
the evaluation recommended the mother "be seen for
individual therapy on a weekly basis to address her history
with males, development of healthy problem-solving skills, as
well as her relationships with parent figures as they may
relate to the choices she makes in adult relationships."
mother began attending therapy, but she missed at least three
consecutive therapy sessions and the therapist discontinued
their relationship in February 2014. The mother posted on
social media threatening to kill herself. Additionally,
contrary to the mother's statements to professionals,
there was evidence the mother continued her relationship with
R.T.'s father; she violated the no-contact order by
talking to him on social media and sending him pictures of
the children during visits.
October 2014, the mother began seeing her third therapist
since DHS involvement began and she also obtained a second
mental-health evaluation. In it, the mother was diagnosed
with adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depression
and histrionic personality disorder. It was noted the mother
had experienced significant cumulative trauma from childhood
through the present day and that she addressed her fears of
abandonment and being alone "by pursuing relationships
with men who have abused her emotionally and
physically." The mother had made positive change,
including getting a job and financially supporting herself.
She was able to verbalize how some of her past choices had
negatively impacted the children.
October 2014 permanency hearing, the court granted a
six-month extension for the mother to work toward
reunification with B.L., B.G., and T.H. and for B.L.'s
father to work toward reunification with B.L. T.H. lived with
his father under DHS supervision; B.L. and B.G. remained in
foster care. The court changed the permanency goal to
termination of parental rights regarding the mother and R.T.
January 2015, the court terminated the mother's parental
rights to R.T. In its written ruling, the juvenile court
found the mother's unresolved mental-health issues posed
a risk to R.T. and concluded the mother was unable or
unwilling to fully participate in the proffered services.