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In re A.V.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.V., Minor Child, A. V., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

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

          David R. Fiester, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

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

          Raymond P. Lough, Vinton, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child.[1] She contends the State failed to prove the statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence, termination is not in the best interests of the child, a statutory exception to termination should be applied, and the juvenile court erred in declining her request for additional time to work toward reunification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with this family at the time of the child's birth in a Minnesota hospital in October 2017, at which time the mother tested positive for several illegal substances. She readily admitted to using methamphetamine and marijuana during her pregnancy. The mother testified she did not learn of her pregnancy until about two weeks prior to the child's birth. The child tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamines, and THC. Two days after the child's birth, the mother left the hospital against medical advice and returned to Iowa. She left the child at the hospital and did not return until the child was discharged from the hospital more than a week later, when she accompanied a DHS worker to transport the child to foster care. The child was removed from the parents' custody on October 18 and was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) on October 24. The mother previously placed another of her children for private adoption.

         The mother has a long history of substance abuse covering roughly fifteen years. Prior to these proceedings, she had never received treatment for her substance abuse. In its adjudicatory order, the juvenile court ordered the mother to submit to random drug testing and undergo a substance-abuse evaluation. She tested positive for amphetamines at an October 30 substance-abuse evaluation. DHS attempted to obtain samples for drug tests from the mother on eighteen different occasions between late October 2017 and early March 2018. During this period, DHS was only able to obtain a sample from the mother on November 7, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Following the substance-abuse evaluation, it was recommended that the mother participate in outpatient treatment, but she did not show up for her admission appointment on November 2. The mother reported for outpatient treatment intake on November 20, but she subsequently failed to attend group therapy appointments and was discharged from outpatient treatment for failure to attend. The mother obtained a second substance-abuse evaluation in January, at which time she tested negative for drugs. Again, however, the mother did not follow through with recommended treatment.

         On March 13, as a result of the mother's lack of progress, the juvenile court directed the State to file a petition for termination of the mother's parental rights. Thereafter, the mother began consistently attending substance-abuse treatment. She tested negative for drugs on March 16 and 26 and April 10. The results of another drug test the mother submitted to were pending at the time of the termination hearing in late May. Throughout the life of these proceedings, the mother has been generally consistent in attending visitation with the child, with some exceptions and tardiness issues. At the termination hearing, the DHS case worker testified the mother has been doing "fantastic" in the last two and a half months. She stated the mother has supervised visitation with the child three or four times per week, there are no parental- or supervision-related concerns during those visits, and she is open to suggestions from providers and the foster mother. Yet, the mother has not progressed beyond supervised visitation. The DHS worker testified she was considering allowing the mother to start exercising semi-supervised visitation with the child, pending the results of the drug test administered before the hearing. The DHS worker additionally indicated the mother was complying with the case plan at the time of the termination hearing. The mother testified at the termination hearing she has been clean since December 1, 2017.

         Following a hearing, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g), (h), and (l) (2018). As noted, the mother appeals.

         II. ...


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