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In re L.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 10, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF L.B., Minor Child, A.K., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Crawford County, Mary L. Timko, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child.

          Martha A. Sibbel of the Law Office of Martha Sibbel, P.L.C., Carroll, for appellant mother.

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

          Kara L. Minnihan, Onawa, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child, L.B., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2017).[1] The mother contests the juvenile court's finding the need for removal would still exist at the end of a six-month extension of time and the determination to terminate the mother's parental rights to L.B. The mother asserts the State failed to show reasonable efforts were made toward reunification.

         L.B. was removed from the mother's care on December 15, 2016- approximately two weeks after L.B.'s birth-because the mother was not able to appropriately care for L.B. The mother was not feeding L.B. as frequently and in the amount necessary to promote L.B.'s weight gain. L.B. was readmitted to the hospital about one week after her birth due to dehydration and improper nutritional intake. The mother was also not properly caring for L.B.'s hygiene, causing L.B. to develop sores on her neck. And the mother violated the safety plan by moving into an apartment with her paramour and L.B. despite the requirement she reside with a friend who had agreed to oversee the care of L.B.

         After L.B.'s removal, the department of human services (DHS) provided a plethora of services to work toward reunification, including case management; paternity testing; safety services through Boys Town; Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP) services; transportation; supervised visitation; and home inspections and treatments for bed bugs. DHS also provided a mental-status examination and psychological evaluation of the mother. It was determined the mother's full scale IQ is 55.

         Despite help from DHS-including placement of charts in the mother's home to help the mother remember things such as when to feed and how to bathe L.B., extended visit times, and individualized help with parenting skills-the mother was not able to progress past fully-supervised visitation. The mother's DHS case manager testified that during visits the mother needed prompting to remember to feed L.B. on time and required direction on how to properly handle L.B. and soothe L.B. when she was crying. The case manager opined due to the mother's lower functioning, inability to retain information respecting L.B.'s care, and reliance on prompting to care for L.B. during visits, the mother is not able to parent L.B. and L.B. could not be safely returned to the mother's care.

         L.B. remains small and requires a regular feeding schedule to continue to gain weight and grow. L.B. also has developmental delays and requires special attention and help with developmental tasks-such as practicing sitting up, crawling, and using developmental toys-to get back on track. When attempting to work with L.B. on developmental tasks during visits, the mother needed repeated prompting to persist in a task rather than discontinue the task.

         After the termination hearing held September 7 and 21, 2017, the juvenile court entered an order terminating the mother's parental rights to L.B. under section 232.116(1)(h).[2] The court stated:

It is clear from the FSRP reports and testimony that when there is any deviation from the "usual, " [the mother] cannot figure out how to pivot. [The mother] . . . is a concrete thinker as opined by Psychologist Russel A. Moulton. As such, [the mother] has difficulty reacting to a situation that does not follow the exact pattern of which she is familiar. This is a problem for ...

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