IN THE INTEREST OF M.W., M.C., T.C., D.C., G.C., and A.C., Minor Children, C.S., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Deborah
Farmer Minot, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals a juvenile court order terminating her
parental rights to three of six children and concluding the
State made reasonable efforts to reunify the family.
C.B. Antonuccio of Public Defender's Office, Iowa City,
for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Anthony A. Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar
Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
mother, Carrie, appeals a juvenile court order involving her
six children- ages one, two, three, six, seven and nine
years. The order terminated her parental relationship with
the three youngest children and rejected her
reasonable-efforts challenge regarding all six children. On
appeal, Carrie claims the State did not make a satisfactory
effort to reunify the family because social workers suspended
her visitation with the children. She contends the State did
not present clear and convincing evidence termination was
warranted under Iowa Code subsections 232.116(1)(d) and (h)
(2018). And she argues the juvenile court should have decided
against termination because of her strong bond with the
children. See Iowa Code § 232.116(3)(c). After
considering Carrie's claims in light of the entire
record, we concur with the juvenile court's meticulous
and well-reasoned termination order.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
had her oldest child, M.W., in 2008, two years after
graduating from high school. She separated from the
child's father, Murray, a few months after giving birth.
Joe is the father of the other five children. Neither father
is a party to this appeal. In 2009, Joe and Carrie moved into
a trailer, which remained Carrie's residence throughout
this case. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS)
intervened with this family in 2015 and 2016 due to the
children's unsanitary and unsafe living conditions.
February 2017, Michelle Schuerer, the Family Safety, Risk,
and Permanency (FSRP) worker, started providing services to
the family. She noted the filthy condition of the home,
including "bugs crawling on the floor," open trash
bags, dirty diapers, mice feces, and holes in the wall
exposing wiring near the bathtub. Schuerer recalled:
"Carrie was there with five children at the time . . . .
And the children just kind of seemed to be running round
doing whatever they desired." Schuerer also reported the
parents left power tools within reach of the children. The
family did not have enough beds for all the children. The
children reported being hungry and anxious about food. The
parents had not been bathing the children because the tub had
a hole in it. The children also had unmet medical and dental
Joe and Carrie started home improvement projects, they never
really eliminated the clutter, bug and mice infestations,
sewage backups, and other hazards. In early summer 2017, the
child protection services of the DHS found a denial of
critical care for lack of proper supervision of the children.
When Schuerer found the household "more chaotic than
normal" a few days later, Carrie said she could not do
much to calm the situation due to her pregnancy. Carrie also
told the FSRP worker she did not trust Joe to care for the
children on his own because of his mental-health condition.
Carrie's youngest, A.C., was born in June 2017.
the State filed a petition alleging five children were
children in need of assistance (CINA) due to the unsafe
conditions in the home. In October 2017, Carrie stipulated to
the CINA adjudication. The juvenile court issued an order for
temporary removal, based in part on allegations from M.W.
that Joe "is mean to her and threatens to throw her out
the door" and the only time he is nice to her is when he
is tickling her upper thigh area.
November and December 2017, FSRP worker Schuerer supervised
twelve visits between the parents and the six children. The
juvenile court accurately described their interactions as
"ongoing chaos." Carrie was so overwhelmed and
unengaged, the children sometimes asked to end the visits
early. After one visit, Carrie's seven-year-old son,
M.C., poignantly explained why he was happy to go back to his
foster home: they "keep me clean, eat dinner with me,
and read me bedtime stories." The children also reported
having seen Joe place his hands ...