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In re D.D.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF D.D. and J.D., Minor Children, C.D., Mother, Appellant.

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

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental relationship with her eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter.

          Ellen R. Ramsey-Kacena, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Judith Jennings Hoover, of Hoover Law Office P.C., Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         At the time of the hearing on termination of parental rights, eight-year-old D.D. and five-year-old J.D. had been removed from their mother Christina's care for seventeen months and had been impacted by their mother's substance abuse since their births. Nevertheless, Christina asked the juvenile court for additional time to work toward reunification. The juvenile court declined the mother's request, concluding adoption was the best permanent placement for these children. Because our review of the record leads us to the same conclusion, we affirm the order terminating parental rights.[1]

         Since she was a teenager, Christina has struggled with addiction, abusing methamphetamine, prescription opiates, heroin, and cocaine. Her addiction compromised her parenting. Both D.D. and J.D. tested positive for cocaine when they were born. D.D. spent almost a year in foster care as an infant. Christina completed two stints in residential treatment but relapsed after each release.

         The instant case started in May 2016 when the children were removed by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) from Christina's care because she was living with several known methamphetamine users and was personally abusing methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. In September 2016, Christina obtained a court-ordered psychological evaluation; the psychologist diagnosed her with anxiety, depression, stimulant-use disorder, opioid-use disorder, and unspecified personality disorder. The psychologist opined that without treatment Christina was "unlikely to be able to maintain a drug-free emotionally stable life." But Christina did not engage in the drug treatment as recommended. She also was evicted from public housing because of criminal activity.

         During the fifteen months following the children's removal, Christina failed to comply with drug testing because she was still using methamphetamine. In August 2017, she nearly died after taking a "cocktail" consisting of heroin, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. She received attention in the emergency room after the overdose and then moved to her third residential treatment program. After a month of treatment, her discharge form indicated she was in "the contemplation state of change." A week after her discharge, Christina relapsed on methamphetamine, which she failed to report at her DHS family team meeting.

Also in August 2017, the State filed a petition to terminate Christina's parental rights to D.D. and J.D.[2] In October 2017, the juvenile court held a hearing on the State's petition. At the hearing, Christine acknowledged she was not ready to resume care of D.D. and J.D.; instead she asked the juvenile court "to give [her] a little more time to prove [herself]." The juvenile court was blunt yet eloquent in its refusal:
Christina asks the Court today to allow her additional time for family reunification. She believes that in ten weeks she will be able to safely resume care of her children. Christina acknowledges that the Court granted additional time for family reunification in May of 2017, and that until her overdose in August she took no steps to regain custody of her children. She shows little insight as to how the multiple years of services provided to her and the multiple substance abuse treatment programs and plans in place over those years without sustained sobriety overshadows her unsupported promises today.

         The juvenile court issued an order terminating Christina's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f)[3] and (l) ...


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