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In re T.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 20, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF T.H. and S.B., Minor Children, A.B., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Plymouth County, Robert J. Dull, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017). AFFIRMED.

          Robert B. Brock II of Law Office of Robert B. Brock II, P.C., Le Mars, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Meret Thali of Juvenile Law Center, Sioux City, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         Abby pursues this appeal from an order terminating her parental rights in her two children, T.H. (born 2010) and S.B. (born 2013). Abby does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the statutory ground authorizing the termination of her parental rights. Instead, she argues termination of her parental rights is not in the best interest of her children. As part of the same argument, she also seems to argue the department of human services failed to make reasonable efforts to reunite the family, termination is inappropriate because the children are in the care of relatives, and the prospect of a guardianship makes termination unnecessary.

         Our review is de novo. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The statutory framework authorizing termination of parental rights is well-established, and we need not repeat it in full herein. See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 39 (Iowa 2010) (setting forth three-part framework). As part of its case, the State must prove termination of the parent's rights is in the best interest of the child. See In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219-20 (Iowa 2016).

         This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) after it was reported Abby and her husband Justin were using methamphetamine while caring for the children. Justin tested positive for methamphetamine. Abby tested negative for any controlled substances. Initially, the children remained in the home, and Justin agreed to participate in substance-abuse counseling. After Justin tested positive again, he was asked to leave the family home in February 2016. The children continued to reside with Abby during this time, although IDHS noted concerns with Abby's mental health, minimization of Justin's drug usage, and difficulty keeping appointments. Abby was ordered to participate in mental-health services and drug testing, among other things.

         In July 2016, after already receiving a warning, Abby admitted she was allowing Justin to see the children outside of supervised visitation even though Justin was using methamphetamine daily. After Abby's admission, the children were removed from her care. T.H. was placed with his biological father, David. S.B. was initially placed in foster care but ultimately was placed with T.H.'s biological father to keep the siblings together.

         After removal, Abby's conduct began to deteriorate. In August, Abby was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, including a glass pipe and a baggie with methamphetamine residue. She entered substance-abuse treatment, but she unsuccessfully discharged in September. After her discharge from treatment, Abby failed to comply with random drug testing. She was inconsistent in attending appointments and in visiting the children.

         Abby continued to struggle throughout 2017. She stopped her mental-health treatment. She did not participate in drug testing. She was inconsistent in attending substance-abuse treatment. She also continued to defend her contact with Justin despite his methamphetamine use. The nadir occurred in February 2017 when Abby was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, driving with a suspended license, and possession of methamphetamine. At that point, the juvenile court directed the State to file a petition to terminate parental rights, which the juvenile court granted following a contested hearing.

         The primary concern in a termination proceeding is the best interest of the children. See In re D.S., 806 N.W.2d 458, 465 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011). In determining what is in the best interest of the children, we consider both the immediate and long-term interest of the children. See In re L.M.F., 490 N.W.2d 66, 67 (Iowa Ct. App. 1992). "Insight for the determination of the child's long-range best interests can be gleaned from 'evidence of the parent's past performance for that performance may be indicative of the quality of the future care that parent is capable of providing.'" In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 778 (Iowa 2012) (citation omitted). As a general rule, "'the needs ...


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