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In re A.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.B., Minor Child, A.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Mary L. McCollum Timko, Associate Juvenile Judge.

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

          Theresa Rachel of Fankhauser Rachel, PLC, Sioux City, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Jessica R. Noll of Deck Law LLP, Sioux City, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         A mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her child, A.B., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), (g), (h), and (l) (2018).[1]She does not contest the grounds for termination, but rather asserts the juvenile court made mistakes of fact and misapplied the law. Based on the evidence reflecting the mother has not maintained contact with A.B. and has not demonstrated a likelihood of long-standing sobriety, we find termination of the mother's parental rights to A.B. is in A.B.'s best interest. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

         A.B. was born in September 2017 and was immediately removed from the mother's care due to the mother's use of alcohol and illegal substances while pregnant with A.B.[2] The mother did not participate in reunification services or any visitation with A.B. throughout the course of this matter. The mother admitted at trial she had avoided efforts by service providers to contact her because she was actively using illegal substances. After a hearing held December 18, 2017, the juvenile court determined that, due to the parents' lack of participation in services, aggravated circumstances existed warranting the waiver of further reasonable efforts toward reunification. The mother entered inpatient substance-abuse treatment in January 2018. At the time of the combined permanency and termination hearing on March 16, 2018, the mother acknowledged she had not seen A.B. since A.B.'s birth.

         In an order entered April 4, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights to A.B., finding:

The actions of [the mother] in her previous child in need of assistance proceedings as well as her actions in this child in need of assistance action concerning [A.B.] demonstrate a total lack of interest in parenting. [The mother] did not demonstrate any interest, let alone a genuine interest, in completing the responsibilities in the case plan in either case. She had no contact with the service providers and was unable to be located despite persistent attempts on the part of the Department of Human Services and [Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency] FSRP [providers] to contact her. . . . [The mother] has not demonstrated that she desired to maintain a place of importance in [A.B.]'s life as she failed to have any contact with [A.B.] since her removal. Given that [the mother] has had no contact with [A.B.] since her birth, the court finds clear and convincing evidence that there is no bond or closeness that would be harmful to [A.B.] to end. The court finds that [the mother] has, in fact, abandoned [A.B.] [The mother] was never a parent to [A.B.] Even prenatally, [the mother] showed little to no regard for her unborn child as she continued to use illegal substances and alcohol throughout her pregnancy.
[A.B.] has moved on without her mother. She has grown and is meeting her milestones without any financial, physical, or emotional support from her parents. To try and introduce these parents to her at some point in the future would be harmful to her emotionally. None of her parents are in a position to state that they could have [A.B.] in their care without considerable time and attention to deal with their own issues. The history would demonstrate that they would not be able to accomplish this in a time frame that would be in [A.B.]'s best interest.
The court finds that it is in the best interest of [A.B.] that the parental rights of [the mother] . . . be terminated as pled in the State's petition. The court finds, after giving primary consideration to the physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs of the child, that a termination of parental rights is the most ...

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