IN THE INTEREST OF A.J., Minor Child, P.J., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Marion County, Steven W.
Guiter, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017).
M. Sparks of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese, P.C., West
Des Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Charles E. Isaacson, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and
appeal arises out of a proceeding to terminate parental
rights filed pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017). Paula
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights in her
child A.J. (born 2008) pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(f). On appeal, Paula challenges the sufficiency of
the evidence supporting the statutory ground authorizing the
termination of her parental rights and whether termination of
the parent-child relationship is in the best interest of the
court reviews termination proceedings de novo. See In re
A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The statutory
framework authorizing the termination of a parent-child
relationship is well established and need not be repeated
herein. See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 39 (Iowa
2010) (setting forth the statutory framework).
first address the challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence. Paula contends there is insufficient evidence
supporting the fourth element under section
232.116(1)(f)-that "[t]here is clear and convincing
evidence that the child cannot be returned to the custody of
the child's parents as provided in section 232.102 at the
present time." Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4). We
have interpreted this to mean the State must prove by
"clear and convincing evidence the child would be
exposed to an appreciable risk of adjudicatory harm if
returned to the parent's custody at the time of the
termination hearing." In re E.H., No. 17-0615,
2017 WL 2684420, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 21, 2017).
family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human
Services (IDHS) in August 2016. At that time, law enforcement
was called to the home.
responding to the call, the officers found the home in a
condition unsafe for the child. The apartment was so
cluttered it was difficult to walk. The toilet was broken and
filled with sewage. There were pills lying loose on the
floor. The police found a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle in
an unsecured location accessible to the child. IDHS had
concerns for the safety of the child due to domestic violence
in the home. Paula's paramour resided in the home with
Paula and A.J. The paramour was a felon. A.J. reported the
paramour frequently beat Paula. A.J. also told IDHS the
paramour had pointed the loaded AR-15 at her and told her
"you will get what [your] mom's getting" after
abusing her mother. IDHS also had concerns about Paula's
mental health and possible substance abuse. Paula was
arrested for child endangerment, and A.J. was removed from
novo review, we find the State proved by clear and convincing
evidence the statutory ground authorizing termination of
Paula's parental rights. From the time of removal the
department provided the mother with a number of services
meant to address the causes giving rise to removal, but the
mother was not responsive to the services and failed to
address the issues creating an appreciable risk of
adjudicatory harm to the child.
mother has not maintained safe and appropriate housing for
the child. Throughout the majority of this proceeding, Paula
lacked any stable housing, alternating between living with
friends and homelessness. See, e.g., In re M.W., 876
N.W.2d 212, 223 (Iowa 2016) (stating inappropriate housing
and inconsistent employment "reflect[ed] [a
mother's] prior pattern of irresponsibility and lack of
planning when it comes to her children"); In re
M.C., No. 17-1184, 2017 WL 4315079, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Sept. 27, 2017) (noting the lack of safe and appropriate
housing was a "significant detriment in [the
parent's] reunification efforts"); In re
R.C., No. 03-1134, 2003 WL 22092677, at *2 (Iowa Ct.
App. Sept. 10, 2003) (finding, among other ...