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In re M.F.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.F., Minor Child, N.F., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child.

          Judy D. Johnson of Borseth Law Office, Altoona, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Lynn M. Vogan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The mother appeals the district court's termination of her parental rights to her child, M.F. She asserts the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence her rights should be terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h) (2017), termination is not in the child's best interest, and her bond with the child should preclude termination. Because the mother failed to correct the many circumstances in her life that put the child at risk, we affirm the order of the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) after M.F. was born, testing positive for cannabinoids in his system. While the mother was at the hospital following the child's birth, her paramour had to be removed from the hospital by security for yelling and screaming at the mother. After the mother was discharged from the hospital, the paramour threatened the mother at her residence, and he later admitted to beating the mother while she was pregnant. On January 11, 2017, just seven days after M.F. was born, the DHS attempted to remove M.F. from the mother's care. However, the mother would not consent to removal, and she fled suddenly with the child and was not located for two days. Once located, M.F. was removed and placed with a foster family.

         On February 14, the mother stipulated to M.F.'s adjudication as a child in need of assistance (CINA) under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2), (n), and (o). The DHS provided services, including substance-abuse evaluations and treatment, mental-health evaluations and treatment, and domestic-violence counselling. Following the CINA adjudication, the mother complied with substance-abuse services until April when she abruptly stopped, describing the counselor as "rude and inappropriate." She eventually entered another treatment program in May, but her attendance was sporadic. She entered an inpatient treatment program in mid-June but was dismissed from the program in mid-July because of a poor attitude, defacing property, and stealing. The mother attended three or four mental-health appointments from April to July. The mother also received domestic-violence services, but the last record of her attendance was in April.

         Following the July 14 permanency hearing, the mother avoided her DHS caseworker. The mother did not notify the DHS that she was staying at her sister's apartment or that she had been the passenger in a car her abusive paramour was driving while a no-contact order remained in effect. The DHS worker only discovered these events after randomly seeing and conversing with the mother at a shopping mall. With little if any progress towards reunification being made, the State moved to terminate the mother's parental rights. A contested hearing was held on October 11, 2017, after which the district court terminated the mother's parental rights to M.F. under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h).[1] The mother appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review termination proceedings de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). Weight is given to the juvenile court's factual findings, especially when considering the credibility of witnesses, but we are not bound by those findings. Id. Our primary consideration is the best interest of the child. In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 776 (Iowa ...


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