IN THE INTEREST OF M.A., Minor Child, M.A., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Jason A.
Burns, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
Kathryn E. Davis, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Anthony A. Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar
Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to
M.A., born January 2015. She argues the State failed to prove by
clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination
exist under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g) or (h) (2017),
termination is not in the best interests of the child, and
the strong bond between her and her child precludes
termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(3). We find the
State has proved the grounds for termination by clear and
convincing evidence, termination is in the best interests of
the child, and there is nothing hindering termination.
Background Facts and Proceedings
Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) first took notice of
this family in April 2017, when M.A. was admitted to the
hospital with a broken left tibia. The incident occurred the
day the mother was released from jail, during which time her
live-in boyfriend had been caring for M.A. Initially,
hospital staff believed the explanation for the injury was
suspicious and reported possible child abuse. An assessment
was performed, and it was determined the injury could have
been the result of an accident. The mother admitted she and
her boyfriend recently used methamphetamine while M.A. was
present in the home. A safety plan was constructed and
provided that both would refrain from using illegal
substances, both would participate in random drug testing,
and M.A. would be subject to a hair- stat test. The safety
services included a daily check on M.A. and required the
boyfriend's mother to assist with the care of M.A.
April 19, M.A.'s hair-stat test results were positive for
exposure and ingestion of methamphetamine. On April 21, the
mother took M.A. to the hospital and demanded the cast be
taken off M.A.'s leg despite medical advice that it
remain in place for another four weeks. M.A. arrived without
a diaper and was only wearing an adult-sized sweater soiled
with urine. Hospital staff reported the mother's erratic
behavior and noted she displayed characteristics of being
under the influence of drugs, including jerky motions,
unstable gait, and poor eye contact. On May 1, the
mother's drug test results were positive for ingestion of
methamphetamine and amphetamines. With the mother's
stipulation that it was in the best interest of M.A. to be
removed from her custody, M.A. was placed in the care of a
30, with the mother's written stipulation, M.A. was
adjudicated as a child in need of assistance. Various
services were offered or provided, including Family Treatment
Court; drug testing; transportation assistance; parenting
assistance; Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency services
(FSRP); substance-abuse referrals; family team meetings; and
mental-health referrals. The mother attended most of the
supervised visitations with M.A. The mother also claimed she
remained sober; however, she had multiple positive drug tests
that indicated continued use of marijuana and
methamphetamine. The mother insisted any positive test result
was due to environmental exposure to drugs.
State filed a petition to terminate parental rights in
November. The petition alleged the mother had made minimal
progress since the case was opened and she continued to
struggle with substance abuse. Additionally, the petition
outlines the mother's history, which includes a prior
arrest on drug-related charges, a prior termination of rights
with respect to another child, and substance
18, 2018, the district court found the State had proved by
clear and convincing evidence the grounds for termination
under Iowa Code ...