IN THE INTEREST OF L.S., M.M., and A.L., Minor Children, T.H., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F.
Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017).
Kristin L. Denniger, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and John McCormally, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Annette Foege Martin, Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights in her
three children, L.S. (born 2007), M.M. (born 2010), and A.L.
(born 2011), pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f)
(2017). This court reviews termination proceedings de novo.
See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014).
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).
appeal, Tara contends there was insufficient evidence
supporting the statutory ground authorizing the termination
of her parental rights. At issue here is Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(f)(4). Under this provision, as relevant here, the
State was required to prove by "clear and convincing
evidence that at the present time the child cannot be
returned to the custody of the child's parents as
provided in section 232.102." Iowa Code §
232.116(1)(f)(4). We have interpreted this to require
"clear and convincing evidence the children 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).
novo review, we conclude the State proved its case by clear
and convincing evidence. The record reflects the family
repeatedly came to the attention of the Iowa Department of
Human Services (IDHS) between 2011 and 2016. IDHS conducted
twelve child abuse assessments of this family during this
time period. During the course of these assessments, Tara was
uncooperative with IDHS. On occasion, she fled the state with
the children to avoid IDHS intervention. The department also
founded several reports of child abuse against Tara during
this same time period. Most recently, the family came to the
attention of IDHS in 2016 when it was reported Tara was using
methamphetamine while caring for the children, associating
with unsafe individuals at the family home, and operating a
methamphetamine laboratory in the home. The children were
removed from Tara's care in July 2016. Tara was ordered
to engage in drug testing, substance-abuse treatment,
mental-health treatment, and to comply with other services as
requested. The evidence showed Tara failed to comply with
services. She did not complete substance-abuse treatment. She
repeatedly tested positive for methamphetamine. She continued
to engage in criminal behavior and was arrested several times
while this case was pending. At the time of the termination
hearing, Tara's probation officer was proceeding with a
report of violation to revoke Tara's probation. Tara
conceded at the termination hearing that she could not resume
care of the children at the time of the termination hearing.
We agree. Clear and convincing evidence shows the children
would have been exposed to an appreciable risk of
adjudicatory harm if returned to Tara's care at the time
of the termination hearing. See, e.g., In re A.B.,
815 N.W.2d 764, 776 (Iowa 2012) (noting drug addiction can
render a parent unable to care for children); In re
R.P., No. 16-1154, 2016 WL 4544426, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Aug. 31, 2016) (affirming termination of parental rights of
parent with history of drug abuse); In re H.L., No.
14-0708, 2014 WL 3513262, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. July 16, 2014)
(affirming termination of parental rights when parent had
history of substance abuse).
address Tara's contention that the State failed to prove
termination of her parental rights was in the best interest
of the children. When making a best- interest determination,
"the court shall give primary consideration to the
child's safety, to the best placement for furthering the
long-term nurturing and growth of the child, and to the
physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs of the
child." Iowa Code § 232.116(2). As a general rule,
"'the needs of [children] are promoted by
termination of parental rights' if the grounds for
termination of parental rights exist." In re
L.M.F., 490 N.W.2d 66, 68 (Iowa Ct. App. 1992) (citation
omitted). "Insight for the determination of the
child's long-range best interests can be gleaned from
evidence of the parent's past performance for that
performance may be indicative of the quality of the future
care that parent is capable of providing."
A.B., 815 N.W.2d at 778.
novo review, we conclude the State proved by clear and
convincing evidence that the termination of Tara's
parental rights in these children was in the best interest of
the children. Tara has failed to resolve her substance-abuse
addiction. At the termination hearing, Tara conceded her
addiction precluded her from providing adequate care for the
children. The concession is supported by other evidence. The
children have suffered physical harm due to Tara's
conduct. One child tested positive at birth for controlled
substances. Another child required significant dental
intervention due to rotting teeth. We reject out of hand
Tara's contention that she would actually start complying
with services if the children were returned to her care.
What's past is prologue. There is no indication Tara,
based on her past performance, would be able to provide for
the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the children
going forward. While Tara has a bond with her children, she
lacks the ability to provide the consistent parenting her
children require and deserve. These children "simply
cannot wait for responsible parenting." Id. at
affirm the juvenile court's order terminating Tara's
parental rights ...