IN THE INTEREST OF E.F., Minor Child, B.F., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Seymour, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
E. Verdoorn of Carr Law Firm P.L.C., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
E. Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
child. She contends the State failed to provide her adequate
notice of the termination hearing and prove the statutory
grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. She
additionally contends termination is not in the child's
best interests and requests additional time to reunify with
Background Facts and Proceedings
was born in May 2017 and came to the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) after the child tested
positive for amphetamine at birth. During DHS's
investigation, the mother admitted to methamphetamine use
throughout her pregnancy. Upon the child's discharge from
the hospital, he was removed from the mother's care and
placed in the care of his maternal great-grandmother. The
mother previously received services as a result of the
court's intervention with two of her older children due
to her substance-abuse issues, however she was unsuccessful
with addressing those issues. Her parental rights to those
children were terminated in March 2015. This child was
adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance (CINA) on
June 23 and remained in the great-grandmother's care.
14, the child's placement was modified to foster care
because the great-grandmother was not deemed a suitable
long-term placement due to the great-grandmother's age
and the child's young age, along with reports that,
during a prior case, the great-grandmother was dishonest with
DHS and allowed unauthorized persons around the children
placed in her care. The child was placed and has remained in
the same foster-to-adopt home since that time. The
child's father was confirmed through paternity testing,
but he repeatedly told DHS he wanted nothing to do with the
child or the case and has not participated in any recommended
mother was arrested in June for driving while barred. This,
along with testing positive for methamphetamine, resulted in
the revocation of her bond on a pending felony drug charge.
The mother also obtained a substance-abuse evaluation in
June, which resulted in a recommendation for residential
treatment. However, she was unable to obtain services at that
time due to her criminal matters.
August, DHS received notification the mother was in an
outpatient treatment program until such time that she was
accepted into an inpatient program. She started an inpatient
program on August 23 but left after one day. In September,
the mother was on a waiting list for another inpatient
program, which recommended she attend outpatient services
until she was able to start, but the mother did not do so.
The mother was to begin the inpatient program on October 2,
but the mother failed to show up on that day. She was allowed
to come in four days later to begin the program. Three weeks
later, while meeting with DHS, the mother reportedly asked,
"If I am not to get [the child] back, why am I
here?" The mother was accepted into recovery court on
December 12 but was unsuccessfully discharged on January 22,
2018, because she did not engage or attend and did not
maintain contact with the court team.
court held a contested permanency hearing on November 21,
2017, during which the mother testified she had not used
methamphetamine for forty-six days, but prior to that time,
she was using it on a daily basis. She requested an extension
to allow more time for progress. Despite this period of
sobriety, the court denied the request for an extension and
found the record was insufficient to demonstrate a reasonable
likelihood the mother would be able to regain custody within
the next six months due to her lack of progress in this case
as well as in her previous cases. In light of the
mother's history of drug use, other treatment attempts,
and lack of insight into her addiction, the court modified
the primary permanency goal of reunification to termination
of parental rights. The court allowed visitation to continue
and the court encouraged the mother to remain in her
treatment program to address her substance-abuse issues since
no final determination had been made at that time. During the
hearing, the court scheduled a termination pretrial
conference for January 10, 2018, and a termination hearing
for January 23.
November 24, 2017, the mother did not return to the inpatient
program after receiving a pass for an off-grounds meeting.
She returned the following day and the program placed her on
a behavioral management plan in which she would be
immediately discharged from the program if she left again.
Though the mother claimed she did not relapse, a urinalysis
administered after she returned was positive for
methamphetamine. On December 21, the mother left the program
again and did not return. The mother was discharged from the
program the following day without having successfully
completed the program. DHS has not received any information
about the mother reengaging in any services since leaving the
attending the inpatient treatment program, the mother's
visits with the child were inconsistent. While in the
program, she did visit with the child four times per week,
during which DHS reported she was attentive. The mother
progressed to semi-supervised visits for a short time while
she was in treatment, but otherwise her visits were
supervised. The mother has not visited with the child since
leaving the treatment program in December.
December 20, the State petitioned the court to terminate the
parental rights of the mother and father. On January 16,
2018, the State filed a motion to dispense with service of
the petition on the mother, contending it had conducted a
reasonably diligent search for her and, despite its efforts,
it was unable to locate her. It provided an affidavit of
diligent search by its investigator. The ...