IN THE INTEREST OF X.M., Minor Child, D.R., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Appanoose County, William S.
Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
Jonathan Willier, Centerville, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
A. George of Griffing & George Law Firm, PLC,
Centerville, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
mother appeals the district court's termination of her
parental rights to her son, X.M. She argues the State did not
prove X.M. could not be safely returned to her custody, the
State did not make reasonable efforts to return X.M. to her
custody, and termination is not in X.M.'s best interest.
We agree with the district court and affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings
family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) on or around December 11, 2015, upon reports
the mother was using methamphetamine. At the time, the mother
lived with her eventual-husband and her four children-X.M. and
three girls. The mother and her eventual-husband
refused drug testing and denied using drugs, and the DHS
noticed no behavioral indicators of drug use. However, the
DHS developed concerns about supervision, food, and shelter
during the initial meeting. The DHS began offering services
to the family on January 7, 2016, including parenting skills
and mental-health services. X.M. has been diagnosed with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional
defiant disorder (ODD), and moderate intellectual disability.
DHS visits, staff noted the house was in disarray with broken
glass and an uncovered hole in the floor. Various
inappropriate items were spread throughout the house within
reach of the children, including a hammer X.M. had used to
break glass and other objects. On multiple occasions, the
children left the house without the mother's knowledge
and without proper winter clothing, sometimes requiring law
enforcement officials to locate and return the children. X.M.
went to school several times with feces on his clothes. On or
around February 1, 2016, X.M. started a fire in the family
home, causing extensive damage and forcing the family to
temporarily live in a motel. During one home visit, X.M.
climbed on top of a refrigerator and sprayed a cleaning
product on his head; DHS staff moved him and cleaned him
while the mother remained seated nearby.
March 28, 2016, the children were picked up after having
wandered unsupervised around a park for several hours. The
children were sunburned, X.M. had scratches on his arms and
face, and they said they had had nothing to eat or drink that
day. The DHS then removed the children from the mother's
care. X.M. was placed in a foster home separate from his
siblings. He transitioned to a second foster family after his
first foster family determined they could not meet his
special needs. At the time of the hearing, X.M. remained in
his second foster home where his behavior and development had
mother's husband has a prior conviction for sexually
abusing his biological daughter from a previous marriage. The
juvenile court initially prohibited him from contacting these
children, but DHS staff believed the mother allowed him to
continue having contact with the children. The order was
eventually lifted and he began to participate in supervised
visits. On July 14, 2017, an altercation between the mother
and her husband resulted in charges of domestic abuse assault
against the husband. Soon after, the mother acknowledged her
husband had assaulted her multiple times over the prior
several months. A no-contact order soon followed barring the
husband from contacting the family, and the DHS ended visits
with the husband. The mother and the husband eventually
resumed living together in violation of the order. On
November 28, the husband was ultimately sentenced on a
reduced charge of disorderly conduct. The no-contact order
was cancelled on January 30, 2018. At the time of the
termination hearing, the mother and her husband had not
participated in couples counseling despite a DHS
recommendation to do so.
months prior to termination, the mother was allowed
semi-supervised visits with the children every other
Saturday. She cancelled about half of the visits. She
testified most of the cancellations were due to illness
resulting from her "nerves." She acknowledged the