IN THE INTEREST OF A.G., N.G., and J.G., Minor Children, N.G., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Stephen A.
Owen, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the juvenile court order severing her parental
relationship with three of her four children.
Shannon M. Leighty of Public Defender's Office, Nevada,
for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
S. Facio of Newbrough Law Firm, Ames, guardian ad litem for
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
appeal involves three children: eight-year-old N.G.,
seven-year-old A.G., and four-year-old J.G. Their mother,
Natasha, challenges the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental rights. Natasha contends she could
have resumed care of the children at the time of the
termination hearing. She also complains the Iowa Department
of Human Services (DHS) did not make reasonable efforts to
return the children and allowed the foster family to hinder
reunification goals. Finally, she alleges termination would
be detrimental to the children because of their strong bond
with her. Based on our independent review of the record,
cannot accept Natasha's contentions. Because the State
offered clear and convincing evidence in support of its
petition to terminate Natasha's parental relationship
with N.G., A.G., and J.G., we affirm the juvenile court's
Facts and Prior Proceedings
child-welfare case opened in April 2016 when the DHS received
a report of J.G., then age two, having been left outside
unattended. Neighbors also recalled the children asking for
food, and DHS investigators found insufficient groceries in
Natasha's home. Natasha later acknowledged she was using
methamphetamine and marijuana at this time. Natasha consented
to removal of her four children in May when she was jailed in
Story County. The children's fathers lived out of state
and were unable to provide care.
August 2016, the juvenile court adjudicated the four siblings
as children in need of assistance (CINA). The next month, the
DHS filed a case plan that recommended Natasha comply with
random drug screens and seek treatment for substance abuse
and mental-health difficulties. Natasha revealed diagnoses of
depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, and
borderline bipolar disorder. The DHS plan also expected
Natasha to participate in visitation with the children and
cooperate with other family safety, risk, and permanency
(FSRP) services. In September 2016, the court modified the
case plan-adding a goal for Natasha to secure safe and stable
housing for herself and the children.
the ensuing months, Natasha did not live up to the
expectations in the case plan. She did not comply with
recommended mental-health and substance-abuse services. She
engaged in criminal activity, collecting convictions for
theft, child endangerment, and driving while revoked. Her
housing was not stable; she often stayed with friends in Ames
but did not provide DHS with the address. Most significantly,
Natasha missed forty-five percent of the twice-weekly
visitations with her children.
2017, a year into the CINA case, Natasha requested additional
services in the form of funds to pay for the mental-health
evaluation requested by the DHS. Those additional services
were provided by the time of the permanency review hearing in
State filed a petition to terminate parental rights in July
2017. The court held a two-day hearing in October and
November 2017. On the first day of the hearing, Natasha came
to court from the Story County jail because she had not
completed required coursework in connection with her
conviction for operating while intoxicated. In early December
2017, the court issued its order terminating Natasha's