IN THE INTEREST OF N.D. & D.B., Minor Children, V.D, Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox,
District Associate Judge.
mother appeals an order terminating her parental rights.
D. Goedicke of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese Law Firm,
P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
M. Pattison of Drake Legal Clinic, Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
mother appeals a juvenile court order terminating her
parental rights to her two children, N.D. and D.B., born in
2007 and 2010, respectively. She contends (1) the State
failed to prove the statutory grounds for termination by
clear and convincing evidence; (2) termination was not in the
best interests of the children; and (3) a statutory exception
should have precluded termination.
Background Facts and Proceedings
mother came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) in November 2014 upon information that her
paramour was using methamphetamine (meth) in the home and had
cared for the children while under the influence of the same.
The mother also tested positive for meth. It was also
determined that the children's maternal grandmother was
supervising them while under the influence of meth.
mother continued to have a relationship with her paramour
despite signing a safety plan in which she agreed to
ostracize her paramour from her children. The State filed
child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) petitions as to both
children and applied for removal. On January 22, 2015, the
juvenile court ordered the children be placed in the legal
custody of DHS. In February, the court modified its removal
order and placed the children with their maternal
grandfather. In March the children were adjudicated CINA. In
June, due to the mother's progress in sobriety and
cooperation with services, the State moved to have the
children returned to their mother under DHS supervision. The
court granted the motion on June 18. Less than a month later,
however, the State moved to have placement of the children
returned to their maternal grandfather, noting, among other
things, the mother's recent positive test for meth and
her lack of involvement in therapy. Following a contested
modification hearing, the mother was allowed to retain
custody of the children but was subjected to additional
restrictions and required to comply with additional services.
September 2015, the State again moved for modification of
placement due to another positive test for meth use. On
September 3, the juvenile court granted the motion, removed
the children from the mother's custody, and returned them
to the custody of their maternal grandfather. As a result of
the maternal grandfather's struggles in transporting the
children, the children were subsequently placed with a family
friend, B.F. Following a permanency hearing in January 2016,
the juvenile court granted the mother a six-month extension
to address her substance-abuse issues through treatment,
demonstrate an ability to maintain a sober lifestyle, and
make healthy relationship choices. Three days later, it was
discovered the mother tested positive for meth. In April, the
mother again tested positive for meth. Later in April, the
juvenile court modified placement of the children, placing
them with another family friend, M.B. On July 8, the juvenile
court returned the children to the mother's custody.
November 2016, there was a suspicious explosive fire at the
family home that burned down the garage. The mother was
present at the home at the time of the fire but did not call
the fire department or law enforcement. During a subsequent
search of the home, police officers found a glass pipe with
white residue and a plastic bag containing what was believed
to be meth. The mother admitted those items belonged to her.
A "friend" of the mother's, K.K., was injured
during the fire, and while being treated at the hospital, he
tested positive for meth. At this time, K.K. was also the
subject of two arrest warrants. K.K. referred to the mother
as his wife while being treated. In a subsequent interview
with law enforcement, the mother conceded K.K. used to cook
meth. Officers also observed signs of recent drug use on the
mother's person. Law enforcement believed the garage fire
resulted from a meth-lab explosion, but because the explosion
destroyed the scene, evidence was unavailable to verify the
same. The mother was subjected to a subsequent hair-stat drug
test and provided negative results. The juvenile court,
however, noted its concern that the mother had just colored
her hair, which could cause a false-negative result. The
mother agreed to stay away from K.K. and re-engage in
services. The juvenile court allowed the mother to maintain
custody of the children but subjected her to additional
January 2017, DHS issued a founded child-abuse report in
relation to the mother allowing K.K. to supervise the
children alone. Later that month, the mother was arrested and
charged with interference with official acts and aiding and
abetting a fugitive from justice. That day, she resisted and
obstructed United States Marshalls and local law enforcement
in their effort to execute an arrest warrant on K.K. by
refusing to allow them into her home, where K.K. was located.
On January 18, the juvenile court removed the children from
the mother's care and placed them with M.B. The next day,