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In re R.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF R.S., N.H., and J.F., Minor Children, K.B., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joseph W. Seidlin, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.

          Jessica Maffitt of Benzoni Law Office, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          Charles S. Fuson of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         A mother appeals the district court's termination of her parental rights to three of her children. She contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts for reunification and thereby failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence her rights should be terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2017). Additionally, the mother asserts termination is not in the children's best interests and the bond she has with the children should preclude termination. We agree with the district court that reasonable efforts were made to reunite the children with the mother. Because of the mother's inability to safely care for the children, in large part because of her use of illegal substances, termination is appropriate under paragraph (f) and is in the children's best interests. Therefore, we affirm the order of the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The mother has five children: R.S., born in 2008; N.H., born in 2009; J.F., born in 2012; K.H.-A., born in 2015; and T.H.-A., born in 2016.[1] The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in January 2016 after T.H.-A. was born and tested positive for THC. The mother admitted to smoking marijuana while pregnant with T.H.-A. but did not think it would harm the baby, as she admitted to smoking marijuana while pregnant with her other children. Because the mother was on probation at the time and in violation of her probation agreement, she was arrested.

         The children were removed on January 29, 2016, and placed with relatives. On March 11, 2016, the children were adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA) under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and 232.2(6)(n). The DHS provided services including, substance-abuse evaluations, mental-health evaluations, parenting classes, relative placement, therapy referrals, transportation assistance, flex funding, and housing resources. From March until December 2016, the mother complied with services and progressed to semi-supervised visitation with R.S., N.H., and J.F. On December 23, 2016, the children were returned to the mother's custody.

         However, on January 13, 2017, the children were removed from the mother's custody after she provided a drug screen that tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. After this removal, the mother found it more difficult to engage with the children and with offered services. On March 1, the mother submitted to a hair stat test that was positive for cocaine and a urine sample that tested positive for marijuana. Nevertheless, at the permanency hearing, the mother was given an additional six months-made retroactive from January 17, 2017-to work towards reunification. Despite this extension, the mother continued to miss scheduled visitation and failed to submit to random drug screening. When she finally did submit to drug testing-on March 24-she again tested positive for cocaine. She also failed to cooperate with drug screens requested on July 12 and August 29.

         A termination of parental rights hearing was held on November 9 and 14, 2017. The district court terminated the mother's parental rights to R.S., N.H., and J.F. under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f). The mother appeals.

         II. ...


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