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In re A.L.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 6, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.L., Minor Child, A.H., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan C. Cox, District Associate Judge.

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

          Jessica J. Chandler of Chandler Law Office, Windsor Heights, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Karl Wolle of Juvenile Public Defender Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her daughter, asserting the State failed to prove the grounds for termination and termination was not in the best interests of the child. Because the mother was incarcerated and she did not attend to her substance abuse and other issues, the child could not be returned to her care at the time of the termination hearing. Also, because termination is in the child's best interests and there are no impediments to termination, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The child, born in March 2015, initially came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in October 2015 after the department received allegations the mother was abusing substances and unable to safely parent A.L. As the investigation was pending, the mother was arrested in Minnesota on a probation violation warrant and held there for several days. Over the next several months, the DHS monitored the family due to concerns of domestic abuse and drug and alcohol abuse by the mother and father.

         In December 2016, the mother drove A.L. to the emergency room while apparently under the influence of prescription drugs. A.L. was subsequently removed from the home and placed with her maternal grandparents. In February 2017, the mother was arrested and charged with theft in the third degree. The mother and the father had a volatile relationship that consisted of drug and alcohol abuse, resulting in domestic violence and a no-contact order. Despite the no-contact order, and a subsequent no-contact order requested by the father, the mother and father continued to communicate, and the father provided the mother with transportation. A.L. was adjudicated in need of assistance on February 16, 2017, based on the parents' substance-abuse issues and domestic-violence concerns.[1]

         In March 2017, the mother was arrested for operating while intoxicated (OWI)-second offense, and she tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines. The child was moved to her paternal grandmother's care in April because the maternal grandmother was unable to set appropriate limits with the mother. In May, the mother entered inpatient treatment, but she was discharged shortly thereafter for possessing prescription medication in her room and giving medication to another patient. She entered another inpatient treatment program in June. In September, the police found the mother unresponsive in the driver's seat of her vehicle. Prescription medication was found in the vehicle, and she was arrested and charged with OWI-third offense and failure to report contraband at a correctional institute. In October, the mother was hospitalized after overdosing on prescription medication. In November, the mother pleaded guilty to her two OWI charges and the theft charge. Also in December, the child was removed from the paternal grandmother's care due to the DHS's concerns that the paternal grandmother would return the child to the father even if his parental rights were terminated. The child was then placed with her maternal aunt and uncle in Minnesota where she remained at the time of the termination hearing.

         Months earlier, at the June 2017 permanency review hearing, the district court found the parents "demonstrated repeated dishonesty [regarding] their substance abuse and toxic relationship, " and it determined termination was the permanency goal. The State filed a petition to terminate the parents' parental rights on October 2, 2017, which came on for hearing on January 9, 10, 24, and 25, 2018. The court issued its order ...


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