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In re R.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 20, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF R.B., Minor Child, S.C., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Angela L. Doyle, District Associate Judge.

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

          Jessica L. Morton of Bruner, Bruner & Reinhart LLP, Carroll, for appellant mother.

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

          Douglas E. Cook of Cook Law Office, Jewell, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to a child, born in 2010. She contends (1) the record lacks clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds for termination cited by the district court, (2) the department of human services failed to make reasonable efforts toward reunification with the child, and (3) she should have been afforded additional time to reunify or the court should have placed the child in a guardianship in lieu of terminating her parental rights.

         I. The district court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to several statutory provisions.[1] We may affirm if we find clear and convincing evidence to support any of the provisions. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010). On our de novo review, we are persuaded termination was warranted under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2017), which requires proof of several elements, including proof the child could not be returned to the parent's custody.

         The mother has a history of drug abuse and criminal activity. The department became involved following allegations of her drug use while caring for the child. The mother tested positive for several drugs and the child was placed with the maternal grandparents pursuant to a safety plan. The district court subsequently adjudicated the child in need of assistance and transferred custody to the department. The child remained with the grandparents throughout the proceedings.

         Meanwhile, the mother was arrested for theft and two drug-related crimes. The district court adjudged her guilty, imposed suspended sentences, and placed her on probation. A later probation-administered test was positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. The mother also incurred new criminal charges.

         The mother failed to comply with the department's drug treatment recommendations or follow through with the department's drug testing schedule. She was unsuccessfully discharged from inpatient or outpatient drug treatment on four occasions and from a Drug Treatment Court program.

         The mother ultimately had her probation revoked. She was imprisoned in the fall of 2017 and remained incarcerated at the time of the termination hearing three months later. She did not participate in the termination proceedings.

         The department employee overseeing the case testified the mother's "soonest recall date" would be nine months after the date of the termination hearing. The child indisputably could not be returned to her custody. See In re A.M.,843 N.W.2d 100, 111 (Iowa 2014) (holding the State must prove the child "cannot be returned to the parents' ...


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