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In re M.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 26, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.M. and CM., Minor Children, A.H., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Marion County, Steven W. Guiter, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Bryan J. Tingle of Tingle Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          William E. Sales III of Sales Law Firm, PC, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to C.M., born May 2014, and M.M., born March 2013.[1] The mother argues termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2018) as to M.M. and section 232.116(1)(h) as to C.M. is not supported by clear and convincing evidence. She also argues termination is not in the children's best interests and the district court failed to consider the factors weighing against termination found in section 232.116(3).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The children were first removed in April 2016 after the mother was discharged from a shelter for drug use and paraphernalia possession, leaving her and the children homeless. The children were placed in the custody of the maternal grandmother until it was discovered the maternal grandmother's husband is a registered sex offender. The children were placed in foster care for a short while until they were placed with their maternal grandfather and his wife in June. The children continue to reside with the maternal grandfather.

         The children were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) in June because of both parents' unresolved substance-abuse issues. The mother reported to the district court she was attending a substance-abuse treatment program, but when the department contacted the program to inquire about the mother's progress, they learned she was not a patient. The mother reported she had a substance-abuse evaluation scheduled throughout August and September, but she did not attend an evaluation in those months. The mother was arrested in January 2017 for providing false identification information and in March for theft. The mother completed a substance-abuse evaluation in jail. She reported the father injected her with methamphetamine before her March arrest and later reported the father physically abused her. The mother and father ended their relationship.

         The mother attended a substance-abuse treatment program starting in April. In June, the mother was granted an additional six months to work toward reunification. While she successfully completed the residential portion of the treatment program, she was later discharged for breaking the rules by having a cell phone. After her discharge, she did not address her substance-abuse issues. She moved back in with her mother and was not employed. Despite repeated recommendations, the mother did not address her mental health or issues with domestic violence and did not attend therapy.

         The mother reported she relapsed on methamphetamine in August and was admitted to a six-week residential substance-abuse treatment program. She later testified she lied about her relapse in order to gain admission to the treatment program because she believed it would help her regain custody. The program counselor believed the mother had relapsed, contrary to the mother's testimony. The mother successfully completed that program in November. The mother engaged in mental-health services for the first time during this treatment program but did not continue to engage in mental-health or substance-abuse services after she completed the program.

         A termination hearing was held on December 13, 2017 and January 10, 2018. In December, the mother admitted the children could not be returned to her because she lived with her mother and stepfather, who is on the sex abuse registry. At the continuation of the termination hearing in January, the mother argued the children could live with her at her mother's house because the stepfather had moved out. In July, ...


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