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In re C.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 24, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.M. and E.M., Minor Children, C.E., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F. Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         The mother appeals from the modification of placement and permanency goals.

          David R. Fiester of Law Office of David R. Fiester, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Kimberly A. Opatz of Linn County Advocate, Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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


         The mother appeals from the court's modification of disposition, transferring placement of the children, C.M. and E.M., and changing permanency goals from reunification to the modified placements. Custody and guardianship of C.M., born May 2005, were transferred to her maternal uncle pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.104(2)(d)(1) (2017). Custody and guardianship of E.M., born March 2009, were transferred to his father pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.104(2)(d)(2). The court declined to proceed with termination of parental rights. The mother argues the State failed to make reasonable efforts towards reunification and that she should have been granted an additional six months to achieve permanency.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Before this action, the mother had physical custody of E.M. and the father regularly exercised visitation. E.M.'s father, who lives in North Dakota, has been involved in the child's life and has shared joint legal custody with the mother. C.M.'s biological father did not participate in these proceedings and could not be located. The children and their mother had previous involvement with the juvenile court system in Illinois, where the children were removed as a result of the mother's substance abuse. The mother accused E.M.'s father of domestic abuse in Illinois, and protective orders against both parties have been filed in Illinois, North Dakota, and Iowa. The children were removed for a period of over two years due to the mother's issues with substance abuse. During that time, the children lived with their uncle and grandfather, the same uncle who was granted custody of C.M. in this action.

          In November 2016, in Iowa, the mother was charged with operating while intoxicated and child endangerment when she drove intoxicated with E.M. in the vehicle and left C.M., then eleven years old, home alone. The court removed the children to a foster home and adjudicated the children in need of assistance (CINA). The dispositional order placed custody with the Iowa Department of Human Services for purposes of foster care.

         The mother is a self-admitted alcoholic. She was required to complete random drug testing, a substance-abuse evaluation, and substance-abuse treatment and stay sober. She did not show up for six out of her fourteen testing dates. In February 2017, the family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) worker found both full and empty alcohol bottles in the mother's home. In March, C.M. complained that her mother was intoxicated during a phone call. The mother is in Alcoholics Anonymous and a church-sponsored substance-abuse program. She attended substance-abuse treatment, but she was discharged without completion in late June.

         In May 2017, the mother's father, who provided her with financial and emotional support, passed away. C.M. believed her mother to be intoxicated at the funeral and both children reported that they felt their mother was getting upset with them during phone calls during this time. The mother tested positive for alcohol use on June 14, 2017.[1]

         The children visited E.M.'s father from June 15 to July 15, 2017. After their visit, the mother's visits were delayed when she refused to participate in visits where a particular DHS worker was present. The mother claims the DHS worker was turning her children against her, and she was encouraged to speak to the worker's supervisor to resolve any issues. While DHS reached out to the mother, the issues were not resolved. The mother did not resume visits until late August. At that time, the children requested that visits be fully supervised since they had not spent time with their mother in over two months. The mother did ...

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