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In re A.F.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 21, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.F. and N.A., Minor Children, A.F., Mother, Appellant.

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

         A mother appeals an order terminating her parental rights to two children, born in 2014 and 2016.

          Mark D. Reed of Marberry Law Firm, P.C., Urbandale, for appellant mother.

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

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

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals an order terminating her parental rights to two children, born in 2014 and 2016. She contends (1) the record lacks clear and convincing evidence to support the ground for termination cited by the district court and (2) termination is not in the children's best interests.

         I. Ground for Termination

         The district court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2016), which requires proof of several elements including proof the children could not be returned to the mother's custody. The mother argues she made significant progress in addressing the circumstances that led to the children's removal and the children could be returned to her custody.

         The children were removed in early 2016, based on the parents' "self-medicat[ion] [of] their mental health related issues with illegal drugs, " "acts of aggression" by the father that "resulted in injuries to" the older child, and the younger child's positive test for marijuana at birth. The children were adjudicated in need of assistance.

         Initially, the mother obtained substance abuse and mental health evaluations, met with her substance abuse counselor, and attended parenting classes. She participated in visits with her children and, according to the department, "demonstrated strong parenting skills." She held down full-time employment and helped the foster parent with "bills and food for the boys." By mid-2016, the mother had successfully completed substance abuse programming and, at the end of 2016, she tested negative for all substances. Despite her progress, the department recommended termination of her parental rights. The district court opted to grant her six additional months to work toward reunification.

         Following entry of the order, the mother was arrested for domestic abuse assault against the father. A no-contact order was entered, but neither parent abided by the order. The mother also missed three weeks of interactions with the children.

         The charge against the mother was eventually dismissed. The mother resumed regular visits with the children and cooperated with the department and service providers. Based on the mother's renewed participation in services, the department ...


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