IN THE INTEREST OF M.B., A.B., and A.T., Minor Children, J.B., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H.
Liesveld, District Associate Judge.
mother seeks reunification with her three children after the
juvenile court terminated her parental rights.
Kathryn E. Davis, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Kimberly A. Opatz of Linn County Advocate, Cedar Rapids,
guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
case involves three children-eight-year-old M.B.,
six-year-old A.B., and three-year-old A.T. In 2014, all three
suffered physical abuse and death threats from Ronald, the
putative father of the two younger children and the paramour
of their mother, Justine. Since that abuse occurred, Justine
has not consistently provided the nurturing and support these
children badly need to heal and grow. After years of
receiving services from the Iowa Department of Human Services
(DHS), Justine is still overwhelmed when called to care for
all three children at the same time and continues to expose
the children to potentially dangerous people. The juvenile
court terminated Justine's parental rights in November
2017. After our review of the record,
find the termination complied with the statutory grounds and
was in the best interests of the children. See Iowa
Code § 232.116(1), (2), (3) (2017).
Facts and Prior Proceedings
family's involvement with the DHS dates back to 2009 when
Ronald reportedly strangled Justine in the presence of
another child. In March 2011, the DHS confirmed a child-abuse
allegation involving the parents' use of illegal drugs in
the home. Then in November 2014, a frightening event resulted
in the adjudication of M.B., A.B., and A.T. as children in
need of assistance (CINA). Ronald threatened to kill Justine
and all three children. He covered M.B.'s mouth so she
couldn't breathe; he waved a metal pipe over his son
A.B., saying "I bet this would go through [the
boy's] skull"; and he forced a towel over baby
A.T.'s face, saying, "[Y]ou take care of that
bitch." Ronald was incarcerated for child endangerment
until July 2015. The DHS returned the children to
Justine's care on her word she would not reunite with
September 2015, the DHS confirmed Ronald was back in the home
and had physically abused M.B., leaving a bruise on her
thigh. Justine testified at the termination hearing that M.B.
lied about what happened. Ronald was charged with violating
the no-contact order. A few days later, M.B. told staff at
her school that her family was moving away. Ronald was with
Justine when the mother picked up M.B. from school. Worried
about the safety of the children, the DHS initiated another
removal and a second CINA adjudication.
October 2015 through June 2017, Justine made some strides
toward reunification. She obtained an apartment with federal
housing assistance for low-income families, though she did
not consistently stay there. Justine instead chose to spend
two to three nights per week at her mother's home. But
Justine's mother lost custody of Justine as a child and
is not approved for contact with the grandchildren. Justine
held four different jobs during the pendency of the case; she
was employed at the time of the termination hearing.
progressed in her visitation with the children, moving from
fully supervised to semi-supervised to unsupervised to
overnight sessions. In early June 2017, Justine had extended
visitation of four overnight stays. Justine complained to the
foster parents and the DHS social worker that caring for all
three children at once was "very stressful." In
fact, it was so stressful that Justine revealed to the foster
mother that Justine started "smoking weed" to cope
with the situation. The DHS also learned Justine had exposed
the children to a friend who was charged with predatory
sexual contact with a minor in Illinois. The FSRP (family
safety, risk, and permanency) worker explained, "[W]here
she's been fully supervised and when people are there
Justine seems to do a good job, but as the level of
supervision decreases, that's when issues arise of people
being there who shouldn't be." The DHS returned
Justine to supervised visitation in mid-June 2017.
struggled with her mental health, having been diagnosed with
a bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety. During the pendency of
the case, she did not consistently manage her medication or
individual counseling needs. She continued to swear at the
children and ...