IN THE INTEREST OF J.W., E.W, and T.W., Minor Children, C.W., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Montgomery County, Amy L.
Zacharias, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals from an order terminating her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017).
R. Wyatt of Woods & Wyatt, PLLC, Glenwood, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Mailander of Mailander Law Office, Anita, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
appeals from an order terminating her parental right in her
three children, J.W., E.W., and T.W. The juvenile court
terminated Carley's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code
section 232.116(1)(e), (f), and (h) (2017). On appeal, Carley
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
statutory grounds authorizing the termination of her parental
rights, contends the termination of her parental rights is
not in the best interest of the children, and contends the
department of human services failed to make reasonable
efforts to facilitate reunification of the family.
court reviews termination proceedings de novo. See In re
A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The 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). Where, as
here, the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more
than one ground, we may affirm the termination order on any
of the grounds supported by sufficient evidence. See In
re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010).
choose to address the sufficiency of the evidence supporting
the grounds for termination set forth in Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(f) and (h). Carley challenges only the fourth
element of each ground, both of which required the State to
prove the children could not be returned to Carley's care
at the time of the termination hearing. See Iowa
Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4), (h)(4). We have interpreted
these provisions 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 there is clear and convincing
evidence establishing the children could not be returned to
Carley's care at the time of the termination hearing
without being exposed to an appreciable risk of adjudicatory
harm. The children came to the attention of the department of
human services in April 2016 after J.W. tested positive at
birth for the presence of marijuana. The children were
removed from the mother's care later in 2016 after she
tested positive for methamphetamine. Since the time of
removal, the mother unsuccessfully attempted substance-abuse
treatment on six separate occasions. Typically, she lasted
barely more than a few days in any program. She left an
inpatient program less than one week prior to the termination
hearing and used methamphetamine a few days prior to the
termination hearing. In short, Carley's untreated
substance abuse has caused physical harm to her children,
precludes her from being able to provide adequate care for
her children, and creates an appreciable risk of harm to her
children. 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 L.S., No. 17-1824, 2018
WL 540968, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2018) (providing
untreated substance abuse can create a risk of harm to the
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).
to or caused by her untreated methamphetamine abuse, Carley
is not able to meet the basic needs of her children. At the
time of the termination hearing, she lacked employment and
housing, both of which have been persistent issues throughout
these proceedings. See, e.g., In re J.C., No.
17-0750, 2017 WL 3283395, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 2, 2017)
(affirming termination of parental rights where mother was
unemployed and essentially homeless); In re M.T.,
No. 03-1417, 2003 WL 22346539, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 15,
2003) (considering mother's inability to find employment
or stable housing when determining children could not be
returned to her care); In re K.H., No. 03-0671, 2003
WL 21459582, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. June 25, 2003) (concluding
the children would be at a continued risk for harm when the
father did not have stable employment or housing); In re
B.T., No. 01-0920, 2002 WL 985533, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App.
May 15, 2002) (noting mother only secured stable housing
shortly before termination hearing and only had a job for
three months prior).
conclude the termination of Carley's parental rights is
in the best interest of the children. The primary concern in
a termination proceeding is the best interest of the child.
See In re D.S., 806 N.W.2d 458, 465 (Iowa Ct. App.
2011). As a general rule, "'the needs of a child 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). When considering best interest, we assess
how "the parent's ability to provide [for] the needs
of the child is affected by the parent's mental capacity
or mental condition." In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d at
708. We also look to the parent's past performance to
gauge her future ability to meet the child's long- and
short-term needs. In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d at 778.
Here, the evidence shows the termination of Carley's
parental rights is for the better. There is no evidence to
contends the department of human services failed to make
reasonable efforts to return the children to her care.
See Iowa Code § 232.102(9) (providing
department of human services must make "every reasonable
effort to return the child to the child's home as quickly
as possible consistent with the best interests of the
child"). The reasonable-efforts standard requires the
department to "facilitate reunification while protecting