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In re M.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 24, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.M. and M.M., Minor Children, J.M., Father, Appellant, J.H., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J. Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights.

          Stuart G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant father.

          Sharon D. Hallstoos of Hallstoos Law Office, L.L.C., Dubuque, for appellant mother.

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

          Sandra P. Trevino of Jensen & Trevino, P.C., East Dubuque, Illinois, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights to their two children, born in May 2014 and June 2015. The father contends his bond with the children should have precluded termination.[1]The mother avers the juvenile court erred in (1) finding clear and convincing evidence established the statutory grounds for termination, (2) concluding termination was in the children's best interests, and (3) declining to grant her additional time to work towards reunification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The parents came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in May 2014 when their daughter was born and tested positive for methamphetamine (meth) and amphetamines. In October, following ongoing issues concerning the mother's substance abuse, a removal order was obtained, and the daughter was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA). In April 2015, the State petitioned for termination of both parents' parental rights with respect to their daughter. In June, the juvenile court found the State sufficiently established the grounds for termination of both parents' parental rights to the daughter, but the court ultimately granted the mother's request for an extension of time to work towards reunification and continued the termination proceedings.[2]The daughter was eventually returned to the mother's custody, and the case was closed in March 2016.

         In June 2016, only a few months after the first case was closed, DHS received allegations that the mother was using meth in the children's presence. Drug tests were performed on the children and parents; the children and father tested positive for meth, but the mother tested negative. The father advised DHS that the mother did something to her hair in order to manipulate the outcome of her test. Voluntary services were provided to the family, and a safety plan was put in place that required the father to move out of the family home and disallowed him from having unsupervised contact with the children. However, the father continued to reside in the home.

         Further allegations of drug use on the mother's part surfaced in March 2017. Following those allegations, the mother and both children tested positive for meth. The State filed CINA petitions as to both children and applied for removal. On March 23, the juvenile court ordered the children be removed from the parents' care after which DHS placed the children in foster care. In May, the children were adjudicated CINA. Both parents relapsed in the same month. Throughout the CINA case, the mother frequently missed her scheduled drug-test appointments. Since her initial involvement with DHS, the mother frequently denied she used meth. She later admitted to using the substance on a number of occasions.

         In September, as a result of the parents' inability to maintain sobriety, lack of honesty with DHS, and inability to properly care for the children, the State petitioned for the termination of their parental rights. Just two days before the termination hearing in October, the mother was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. The court ultimately terminated both parents' parental ...


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