IN THE INTEREST OF J.W., Minor Child, H.H., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Kevin A.
Parker, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017).
Kimberly A. Graham, Indianola, for appellant mother. Thomas
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
C. Naanep, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and
appeals the termination of her parental rights in her child
J.W., born 2015, pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116
(2017). She argues there was insufficient evidence to
terminate her rights under section 232.116(1)(d), (h), and
(i). She also contends termination was not in the best
interests of the child.
court reviews the termination of parental rights under a de
novo standard of review. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d
100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The legal framework for termination
appeals is well established and does not need to be repeated
herein. See 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"). "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).
is clear and convincing evidence to terminate Haley's
parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h).
At issue here is section 232.116(1)(h)(4), which requires the
State to prove the "child cannot be returned to the
custody of the child's parents . . . at the present
time." "At the present time" means at the time
of the termination hearing. See In re E.H., No.
17-0615, 2017 WL 2684420, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 21,
2017). At the hearing, Haley testified she could not take
care of the child on her own. Her admission was supported by
the evidence. The evidence showed Haley lacked employment and
housing security. When she was able to obtain housing, the
home was unsanitary and unsafe for a young child. Haley
continued to be involved with J.W.'s biological father,
who has a criminal record for physically abusing his two
other then-infant children. In one of the cases, the father
broke the infant's arm. When asked at the termination
hearing whether the father would be a danger to the child at
issue, Haley responded, "especially." Nonetheless,
Haley continues to be involved with the father. The risk of
physical abuse to the child at issue posed by the father
amounts to an appreciable risk of adjudicatory harm
sufficient to conclude the child could not be returned to
Haley's care at the time of the termination hearing.
See In re M.C., No. 17-1184, 2017 WL 4315079, at *1
(Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2017) (stating we have interpreted
section 232.116(1)(h)(4) 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
contends termination is not in the best interest of J.W. Her
argument is identical to her sufficiency challenge addressed
above. Iowa law clearly establishes that "[i]t is simply
not in the best interests of children to continue to keep
them in temporary foster homes while the natural parents get
their lives together." In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d
793, 800 (Iowa 2006). Haley has not been responsive to
services. She cannot meet the most basic needs of the child,
including food and shelter. She continues in a relationship
with a man she testified posed a special danger of physical
abuse to the child at issue. We find that termination is in
the best interest of J.W. "Children simply cannot wait
for responsible parenting." In re L.L., 459
N.W.2d 489, 495 (Iowa 1990). "It must be constant,
responsible, and reliable." Id.
not exactly clear, it appears the mother argues the strength
of the parent-child bond militates in favor of preserving the
parent-child relationship. See Iowa Code §
232.116(3)(c); In re D.S., 806 N.W.2d 458, 474-75
(Iowa Ct. App. 2011) (stating that factors weighing against
termination in section 232.116(3) are permissive and not
mandatory). We decline to exercise discretion to preserve the
parent-child relationship. Here, there is little evidence
establishing a parent-child bond. The child has been removed
from the mother's care for almost all of the child's
life. Further, the opportunity to be placed in stable
environment outweighs any detriment to the child caused by
the termination of the mother's parental rights
note, our court has also recently affirmed the termination of
Haley's rights in another child. See In re K.W.,
No. 17-1438, 2017 WL 5185455, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 8,
2017). For the reasons outlined above and in K.W.,
we affirm the termination of Haley's parental rights in