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In re C.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

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

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Rose Anne Mefford, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the district court order terminating her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Misty White, Sigourney, for appellant mother.

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

          Peter Stiefel, Victor, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         The mother appeals[1] the termination of her parental rights to C.B., born July 2017, and the district court order of the same date changing the permanency goal to adoption or other permanent placement.[2] The mother's parental rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (e), (g), and (h) (2018). The mother does not challenge the grounds for termination. On appeal, the mother argues the district court improperly denied her motion for recusal and the State failed to make reasonable efforts at reunification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         C.B. came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in September 2017. After C.B.'s birth in July, the mother and C.B. resided with the child's maternal grandmother in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma equivalent of child services found the grandmother was not an appropriate caretaker for the child, and the grandmother transferred the child to his maternal great-grandmother residing in Iowa. The maternal great-grandmother and the great-grandmother's paramour, a person who was a perpetrator of sexual abuse on the mother when the mother was a child, took care of the child until DHS became involved.

         C.B. was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) in October and was placed with his paternal grandmother, who also has custody of the mother's two older children. The mother's husband was incarcerated in Jasper County, Iowa and later consented to termination of his parental rights.

         The mother has had two visits with C.B.; the second visit ended after fifteen minutes when the mother was arrested. After the mother was released from jail in January 2018, DHS and family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) workers attempted to set up additional visits. The mother refused to attend visits at the FSRP office or visits occurring in Indianola. The mother often did not communicate with providers in order to set up visits. At the termination hearing, the DHS worker testified she estimated the mother had spent four hours with the child since he was released from the hospital after his birth in 2017. The child has not resided with the mother besides a brief period after birth.

         DHS has offered the following services: case management; FSRP services; sibling placement; family team meeting referral; paternity testing; supervised visitations; the offer of psychological, substance-abuse, and mental-health evaluations; and the offer of parenting classes. The mother has not complied with the district court's recommendations for reunification. The mother has not obtained a substance-abuse, mental-health, or psychological evaluation. The mother has not cooperated with paternity testing, drug testing, FSRP services, signing release-of-information forms, or attending parenting classes or parenting-skill sessions. At one point, the mother stated a desire to voluntarily terminate her parental rights and refused any contact with or services through DHS.

         In May, the mother made a motion for a change of venue or new trial judge, arguing the judge presiding over the termination case had recently presided over the mother's criminal case and had prejudicial ...


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