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In re H.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF H.B. and L.G., Minor Children, B.M., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.

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

          Emily K. DeRonde of DeRonde Law Firm, PLLC, Johnston, for appellant mother.

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

          Charles E. Isaacson of Charles Isaacson Law PC, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her children, born in 2012 and 2014.[1]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Our de novo review of the record reveals the following facts. The State applied for an order temporarily removing the children from the mother's custody based on reports she was "using methamphetamine," had an "extensive drug history" and history of mental illness, could not be located, left the children with others, and failed to communicate with the caretakers. The district court granted the application. Following a hearing, the court found that the mother left the children for "approximately a month," was reportedly homeless, had her parental rights to another child terminated in 2005, and was physically abused by the father of one of the children in the children's presence. Temporary custody of the children was placed with grandparents, under department of human services supervision.

         In time, the district court ordered the children to be returned to their mother's custody. Before the scheduled transfer date, a service provider who picked the children up from a visit smelled smoke on them. The mother was asked to submit to a drug test. She failed to appear. A later test administered during a court proceeding was positive for marijuana. The State asked the court to keep the children in their current placements. The court granted the request. Three months later, the court returned custody of the children to the mother, under department supervision.

         The district court left custody with the mother despite "significant concerns with [the] placement." A department report supported the concerns. The social worker assigned to the case stated the mother "teetered between w[he]ther she can provide minimally adequate care and inadequate care." She articulated her firm belief that if the case were "to remain open another 3 months," all concerned would "be in the exact same place as we are today."

         Her prediction came true. The department received reports of drug use and domestic violence in the home, and the mother refused to participate in court-ordered drug screens.

         The State moved to modify the placement. The district court granted the motion, and the children were removed from the mother's care. The younger child was placed in the custody of her paternal grandparents. The older ...


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