IN THE INTEREST OF R.C., Minor Child, M.C., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Craig
M. Dreismeier, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
E. Benson of Benson Law, PC, Council Bluffs, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Te'ya T. O'Bannon-Martens of O'Bannon Law, PC,
Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
mother, Michelle, appeals the termination of her parental
rights to her son, R.C., who was born in October
2017. She argues the State failed to prove the
statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing
evidence and termination is not in R.C.'s best interests
because it would damage his emotional
well-being.Upon our de novo review of the record, we
agree with the conclusions of the juvenile court and affirm
the termination order.
tested positive for amphetamines and cannabinoids at birth.
The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) removed him from
Michelle's custody and placed him in family foster care.
On the day of removal, Michelle began treatment at an
inpatient substance-abuse treatment facility. During the
first month, she showed promise in her rehabilitation. But in
late November, Michelle "snuck out" of the facility
and did not return. After leaving treatment, her contact with
the DHS was inconsistent. The juvenile court adjudicated R.C.
as a child in need of assistance (CINA) in December 2017.
worker advised Michelle the treatment facility would allow
her to return if she completed a substance-abuse evaluation.
She completed the evaluation in early January 2018 but took
no additional steps to resume treatment at that time.
Michelle underwent a second evaluation in March and again
received word she could return to treatment. Still she did
not re-engage. Michelle testified she did not go back to the
facility because she had warrants out for her arrest.
the CINA case, the DHS offered Michelle one to two supervised
visits per week with R.C. From December 2017 through May
2018, Michelle attended only one visitation. At the time of
the termination hearing in June, she had not seen her son in
more than six months. According to her testimony, Michelle
was using illegal drugs "almost" the entire time
since her November departure from treatment.
State ultimately petitioned to terminate her parental rights.
At the time of the termination hearing, Michelle was
incarcerated at the Pottawattamie County jail after being
arrested one week earlier. Despite her incarceration,
Michelle testified in person. When her attorney asked why
Michelle had not seen R.C. since January, she admitted to
"being rather selfish and not thinking of him." She
then claimed she was motivated to change and would be
"grateful for [the court] to give [her] a little more
time." After considering her testimony and the
State's evidence, the juvenile court terminated
Michelle's parental rights under Iowa Code subsections
232.116(1)(b), (e), (h), and (l) (2018). She now
first challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting
termination. "[W]e may affirm the juvenile court's
termination order on any ground that we find supported by
clear and convincing evidence." In re D.W., 791
N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010). As to termination under
paragraph (h), Michelle does not dispute R.C. is three years
or younger, has been adjudicated a CINA, and has been removed
from her care for the last six consecutive months with no
trial periods at home. See Iowa Code §
the final element, she argues "in the near future, upon
her release from incarceration, the child could be placed
with [her] at an inpatient facility." Her argument
amounts to a concession R.C. could not be returned to her
care at the time of the termination hearing. See id.
§ 232.116(1)(h)(4); D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 707
(interpreting the statutory language "at the present
time" to mean "at the time of the termination
hearing"). The record includes clear and convincing
evidence Michelle was not presently in a ...