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In re S.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF S.H., Minor Child, C.H., Mother, Appellant.

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

         A mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights.

          Kristin L. Denniger, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Julie G. Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         A mother appeals from the order terminating her parental rights to S.H., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2017).[1] Finding no reason to disagree with the juvenile court, we affirm.

         The child was born in February 2014. In May 2016, the mother came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) after DHS received a report the mother was using methamphetamine with the child present. The mother informed DHS she had "sign[ed] over custody" of the child to her father and stepmother. After the child-abuse assessment was founded, the child was adjudicated a CINA on June 27, 2016, and a July 28, 2016 dispositional order placed the child in the custody of DHS. The child was later placed in another relative's home and has remained out of the mother's custody.

         The mother entered a residential treatment facility on February 2, 2017, [2]and provided her first clean drug test to DHS the next day[3]-more than six months after the child was removed from the mother's custody. A petition to terminate the mother's parental rights was filed on February 9, 2017.

         On April 21, the juvenile court did not proceed with a scheduled permanency/termination hearing and allowed the mother additional time to resume care of her child at the recommendation of DHS. At a family team meeting held that same date, a plan was developed pursuant to which the mother would continue to comply with substance-abuse and mental-health treatment and visits were to be extended to overnights with the expectation that a trial home placement would begin on May 15. Because the mother had a history of allowing other people to be present during visits who "may or may not be appropriate, "[4] there was "a specific expectation from the family team meeting that no unapproved people be present [at visits] and that that would impact [DHS's] ability to move forward with [the] plan."

         Unfortunately, within the first two weekends of overnight visits with her child, the mother "was allowing unapproved people to be present during visits. She also took [the child] to the home of people who had not been approved by the [DHS] to be present." Moreover, the child began demonstrating sexualized behavior while at daycare.[5] Additionally, the mother attended the funeral of her grandmother out of town from May 16-19. The drug patch placed on the mother on May 9 and returned on May 22 tested positive for methamphetamine. The mother asserted the patch was falling off so she removed it and placed it in a small plastic bag on May 17. She denied using methamphetamine and suggested the patch may have tested positive because she had helped her boyfriend and his father move items from storage sheds, the contents of which had been purchased at an auction. She provided samples for urinalysis on May 19 and May 22, both of which were negative for illegal substances.

         A trial on the petition to terminate parental rights was held on June 2. The guardian ad litem recommended termination of parental rights. So, too, did the social worker and the Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP) worker who worked with the mother.[6] As summarized by the FSRP worker, the mother "just has not demonstrated that she can put [S.H.] first as priority and maintain positive life choices." Service providers observed the mother had been given additional time to seek reunification but the mother's expected progress had not been realized.

         The mother's stepmother also recommended termination of the mother's rights, noting the mother's ...


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