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In re A.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 10, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.B., Minor Child, M.C., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox, District Associate Judge.

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

          Steven L. Cooper of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese, PC, West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          ConGarry D. Williams of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her fifteen-month-old child, A.B.[1] The mother contends that grounds for termination have not been proved by clear and convincing evidence, she should have been granted an extension of time to seek reunification, termination is not in the child's best interests, and the mother-child bond should preclude termination in any event.

         We review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). "We are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, but we do give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses." Id. (citation omitted).

         The mother has long-standing, unresolved issues of mental health (depression and anxiety) and substance abuse (methamphetamine). Despite months of involvement with the juvenile court, she had only recently engaged with a mental-health provider. The mother asserts she had a "long period of sobriety at the time of the termination hearing." The record, however, establishes the mother consistently tested positive for methamphetamine and other substances from the time A.B. was removed from the mother's care in May 2017 until the mother was ordered to serve 100 days in jail, beginning in September 2017.[2] She was pregnant when she was jailed. The mother was released from custody on January 4, 2018, and gave birth to a child on January 25. The termination hearing concerning A.B. was held on January 31 and February 21, 2018. In that January and February time period, the mother had been living at either the House of Mercy or the Hope Ministries. While she may have been free of substances from September 2017 to February 2018, the mother had been released from custody for only about a month. This does not establish a commitment or the ability to live a substance-free life outside of a restricted setting. Moreover, the mother has a newborn baby, and the mother has not demonstrated an ability to attend to A.B.'s many medical needs.

         The child is under the age of three, was adjudicated a child in need of assistance on June 27, 2017, has been removed from the mother's custody for at least the last six consecutive months, and cannot be returned to the mother's care at present. Consequently, there is clear and convincing evidence to support the termination of the mother's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018).

         We must next determine whether the best-interest framework laid out in section 232.116(2) supports termination of parental rights. In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 473 (Iowa 2018). Section 232.116(2) provides in relevant part,

In considering whether to terminate the rights of a parent under this section, the court shall give primary consideration to the child's safety, to the best placement for furthering the long-term nurturing and growth of the child, and to the physical, mental, and emotional condition and needs of the child. This consideration may include any of the following:
(a)Whether the parent's ability to provide the needs of the child is affected by the parent's mental capacity or ...

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