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In re M.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 7, 2018

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

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine Dalton Ploof, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two children.

          Timothy J. Tupper of Tupper Law Firm, Davenport, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Brenda L. Drew-Peeples of Drew-Peeples Law Firm, Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two children, born in 2014 and 2016. She contends termination was not in the children's best interests and, specifically, the district court should have granted her additional time to work towards reunification. On our de novo review of the record, we disagree.

         The mother's older child was born with a severe heart condition that required surgery and twenty-four-hour care. When the child was twenty months old, she had to be re-hospitalized for ongoing care. The mother stayed with her at the hospital. While there, the mother went to a bathroom stall and, unbeknownst to anyone, gave birth to a second child. She placed the child in the bathroom garbage can, covered him with paper towels, and left. Hospital personnel discovered the baby in time to provide emergency services.

         The State sought and obtained both children's removal from the mother's custody. The younger child was immediately placed with his father. The older child was initially placed with her maternal grandparents but was later transferred to the father's care. Both children remained with the father through the termination hearing, more than a year after the removal.

         Meanwhile, the State charged the mother with several crimes, and the district court entered a criminal order prohibiting her from having any contact with her second child. The State separately petitioned to terminate her parental rights to both children.

         Approximately three weeks before a hearing on the State's termination petition, the mother entered an Alford[1] plea to child endangerment and neglect or abandonment of a dependent person. At the time of the termination hearing, she had yet to be sentenced.

         The mother did not appear at the termination hearing. A social work supervisor with the department of human services recommended termination of her parental rights to the children.

         The district court concluded the State proved three statutory grounds for termination. See Iowa Code ยง 232.116(1)(d), (h), and (i) (2017). The court turned to whether ...


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