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In re A.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.M., Minor Child, L.F., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her one-year-old daughter. AFFIRMED.

          Meegan M. Keller, Altoona, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Erin Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother, Lacey, challenges the juvenile court's order terminating her parental relationship with one-year-old A.M. Lacey contends she has progressed with her mental-health treatment, housing stability, and domestic-violence counseling since the termination of her parental rights to two older children. In her words, she doesn't have "the drama-filled life" now at age twenty-six that she had at nineteen. Given that progress, she believes she can resume care of A.M. Lacey also argues termination is not in A.M.'s best interests.

         After independently reviewing A.M.'s case, we find clear and convincing evidence to support the termination of Lacey's rights.[1] Lacey's history of not complying with medication management-which is critical to maintaining her mental health-presents an ongoing risk to A.M. if returned to Lacey's custody. Accordingly, the State satisfied the elements for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018). As for A.M.'s best interests, we find termination of parental rights and the possibility of adoption by her foster parents ensures her safety and stability, as well as her prospect for healthy development, for the short-term and into the future. See Iowa Code § 232.116(2) (2017).

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Lacey has been involved with the Iowa department of human services (DHS) for seven years. In 2011, the juvenile court removed her oldest child, Z.F., because of Lacey's struggle with substance abuse and mental-health issues.[2] The record from that case revealed Lacey, who stopped taking her prescribed medication, threatened to harm herself and Z.F., who was only three weeks old.[3]The court terminated Lacey's parental relationship with Z.F. in 2012.

         A similar pattern emerged with Lacey's second child, B.C., who was born in 2014. The juvenile court adjudicated B.C. as a CINA in December 2016 because the mother had been using illegal drugs while caring for the child. Lacey acknowledged that she struggled to take her medications as prescribed during the pendency of B.C.'s CINA case. Lacey also endured domestic violence from B.C.'s father. Still, Lacey initially made strides toward reunifying with B.C. Lacey completed two substance-abuse programs. In June 2017, the juvenile court delayed permanency for an additional six months.

         Only then did the DHS caseworker learn that Lacey was pregnant and expecting A.M. in August. The caseworker expressed concern A.M.'s father, Kevin, who was previously incarcerated for assault, was also violent toward Lacey. B.C. reported Kevin hit her mother "in the tummy." In January 2018, the juvenile court terminated parental rights to B.C. based on persistent concerns about Lacey's mental health, her dishonesty with the service providers, and the potential for domestic violence in her home.

         A.M. was born in August 2017. Within days of her birth, the juvenile court approved A.M.'s removal from Lacey's ...


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