IN THE INTEREST OF L.S. and D.S., Minor Children, M.M., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Jason A.
Burns, District Associate Judge.
mother with a history of substance abuse and mental-health
issues appeals the termination of her parental rights to two
young daughters. AFFIRMED.
C.B. Antonuccio of Public Defender's Office, Iowa City,
J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Anthony A. Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar
Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
mother, Melony, appeals the termination of her parental
relationship with her two daughters, three-year-old L.S. and
two-year-old D.S. Bruising around the ears of the youngest
girl drew the attention of authorities. Once the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) took custody of the girls,
Melony never made enough progress to have them returned. On
appeal, Melony challenges the statutory grounds for
termination and argues the juvenile court's action harmed
the children because of their close bond with her. Melony
seeks an additional six months to work toward reunification,
or, in the alternative, a guardianship for the children with
independently reviewing the record, we reach the same
conclusion as the juvenile court regarding termination of
Melony's parental rights. Melony cannot safely parent her
daughters given her persistent substance abuse and untreated
mental-health issues. Crediting the opinions of the social
workers, we doubt whether a reprieve of six months would make
a difference; nor do we find this case is appropriate for a
guardianship. Accordingly, we affirm.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
took notice of Melony's family in August 2016 after she
brought D.S. to a doctor to inspect bruising on and around
the toddler's ears. After testing for medical conditions
that could cause bruising, the examining doctor concluded
D.S's injuries resulted from physical
abuse. The older sister, L.S., showed no similar
signs of physical abuse. Initially, Melony blamed her live-in
paramour for D.S.'s injuries.
case plan allowed the children to stay with relatives. But
just days later, Melony removed the children from the
relative's care without notifying her DHS caseworker. As
a result, the DHS requested removal and placed the children
in family foster care. While in Melony's care, both
children were exposed to marijuana, according to a hair test.
Melony also tested positive for marijuana and
methamphetamine. The juvenile court adjudicated L.S. and D.S.
as children in need of assistance in September 2016 under
Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b), 232.2(6)(c)(2), and
232.2(6)(o)(2016). The children remained in foster care;
Melony stayed with her parents. To achieve reunification, the
court expected Melony to seek treatment for substance abuse
and emotional issues and to find employment and stable
first, Melony made progress. She began working at Arby's.
She obtained a driver's license. She participated in
family treatment court. She sought substance-abuse treatment,
graduated from an outpatient program, and was methamphetamine
free during October and November of 2016. But after the DHS
approved Melony's mother and stepfather for family foster
care, Melony was forced to find new housing and chose to move
back in with her paramour. In December, Melony witnessed a
person's death and began using methamphetamine as a means
to cope with the trauma. At this time, Melony admitted she
likely caused the injuries to D.S.'s ears, claiming the
bruising occurred when she repositioned the child's head
while styling her hair. Melony blamed the severity of the
bruising on a combination of the hairstyling and L.S. kicking
D.S. repeatedly in the head.
continued using methamphetamine. Though she eventually sought
residential treatment, she left the facility after one day.
When she expressed an interest in returning, the treatment
facility required Melony to provide a letter from her
psychiatrist stating she was emotionally stable enough to
begin treatment. Melony did not satisfy that requirement. She
continued to use methamphetamine intermittently over the next
several months. After Melony tested positive for marijuana,
she accused the DHS of tampering with the results to provoke
her and limit her visitation with the children. She claims
the DHS's misdeeds prompted her to relapse on