IN THE INTEREST OF D.R., Minor Child, C.F., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox,
District Associate Judge.
appeals from an order terminating her parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2018).
Elizabeth A. Ryan of Benzoni Law Office, PLC, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
M. Vogan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem
for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
case arises out of a child welfare proceeding initiated
pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2018). The mother of the
child at issue appeals from an order terminating her parental
rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (h), and
(i). On appeal, the mother challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence supporting one of the statutory grounds authorizing
the termination of her parental rights. She also contends the
juvenile court should have given her additional time to
reunite with the child.
court reviews termination proceedings de novo. See In re
A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). The statutory
framework authorizing the termination of a parent-child
relationship is well established. See In re A.S.,
906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73 (Iowa 2018) (setting forth the
statutory framework). The burden is on the State to prove by
clear and convincing evidence (1) the statutory ground or
grounds authorizing the termination of parental rights and
(2) "termination of parental rights is in the best
interest of the child." See In re E.H., No.
17-0615, 2017 WL 2684420, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 21,
2017). Even where the State proves its case, however, the
juvenile court has the discretion to preserve the
parent-child relationship where the parent proves by clear
and convincing evidence a statutory factor allowing
preservation of the parent-child relationship. See
Iowa Code § 232.116(3) (setting forth permissive factors
to avoid the termination of parental rights); In re
A.S., 906 N.W.2d at 476 (stating it is the parent's
burden to prove an exception to termination).
first address the sufficiency of the evidence. The mother
contends there is insufficient evidence to support
termination of the mother's parental rights pursuant to
Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(i). The mother does not
challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
other statutory grounds authorizing the termination of her
parental rights. The mother's failure to challenge any of
the other grounds constitutes waiver of any challenge to the
other grounds. See In re M.K., No. 14-0676, 2014 WL
2885366, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. June 25, 2014). Where, as here,
"the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more
than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile
court's order on any ground we find supported by the
record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa
2012). We conclude there is clear and convincing evidence
supporting termination of the mother's parental rights
pursuant to section 232.116(1)(d) and (h). Because we have
concluded there is sufficient evidence to support the
termination of the mother's parental rights pursuant to
section 232.116(1)(d) and (h), we need not address her
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence under paragraph
mother also contends the juvenile court should have given her
additional time to pursue reunification efforts with the
child at issue. Pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.104(2)(b),
the juvenile court may enter an order deferring permanency
for six months upon a finding the need for the child's
removal will no longer exist at the end of the additional
six-month period. The court must "enumerate the specific
factors, conditions, or expected behavioral changes which
comprise the basis for the determination that the need for
removal . . . will no longer exist at the end of the
[extension]." Iowa Code § 232.104(2)(b). "The
court may look at a parent's past performance" in
determining if such a deferral is appropriate. In re
T.D.H., 344 N.W.2d 268, 269 (Iowa Ct. App. 1983).
"The judge considering [deferred permanency] should
however constantly bear in mind that, if the plan fails, all
extended time must be subtracted from an already shortened
life for the children in a better home." In re
A.A.G., 708 N.W.2d 85, 92 (Iowa Ct. App. 2005).
is no evidence in the record showing the need for removal
would no longer exist if the mother were given additional
time to receive services. The mother does not identify what
specific services would resolve the need for removal. She
does not identify the specific factors, conditions, or
expected behaviors she would change if given additional time
to work toward reunification.
contrast, the record shows the mother is not amenable to
resolving the issues giving rise to removal. The child was
born in May 2017. In June 2017, the mother took the infant
child to an urgent-care clinic due to her concerns regarding
the child twitching. The treating physician advised the
mother that the twitching could represent seizure activity
and that the child should be transported by ambulance to an
emergency room. The mother became irate, refused further
treatment, and left the clinic with the child. An hour later,
the mother and father did take the child to the emergency
room. Medical staff reported the mother was irrational and
uncontrollable. Medical staff determined the child had
suffered non-accidental injuries, including bleeding in the
brain, bilateral retinal hemorrhages, and a femoral fracture.
The police interviewed the mother the following day, and she
admitted to causing the injuries. The State charged the
mother with three counts of child endangerment causing
serious injury, child abuse, and neglect of a dependent
person. In March 2018, the mother pleaded guilty to child
endangerment causing bodily injury and neglect of a dependent
person. The factual basis for the plea related to the mother
leaving the clinic with the child without immediately
obtaining medical care.
with the criminal proceedings, the State initiated this child
welfare proceeding. In July 2017, the child was removed from
the care of the mother and services were initiated. The
services initially did not include visitation with the child
due to the entry of a no-contact order in the criminal case.
In January 2018, the no-contact order in the criminal case
was modified to allow the mother supervised visitation with
the child to pursue psychotherapy. The mother initiated
child-parent psychotherapy, but the mother refused to discuss
the child's injuries as part of the therapeutic process.
Subsequently, the State petitioned to terminate the
mother's parental rights. At the termination hearing, the
mother testified she took a plea deal but denied knowledge of
who or what caused the child's injuries. The juvenile
court found the mother's denial of ...