IN THE INTEREST OF D.H., Minor Child, R.D., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, William
Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals from an order terminating her parental rights
in her child pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 232 (2018).
F. Bozwell, Jr., Centerville, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Wenke, Ottumwa, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
juvenile court terminated Rachell's rights in her child,
D.H., pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2018). In
this appeal, Rachell claims there is insufficient evidence
supporting the statutory ground authorizing the termination
of her parental rights and termination of her parental rights
is not in the best interest of the child.
review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo.
See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014);
In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010).
However, "[w]e give weight to the findings of the
juvenile court, particularly with respect to the credibility
of witnesses." In re B.N., No. 00-0220, 2001 WL
57987, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan 24, 2001); accord
D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 706. The statutory framework
authorizing the termination of a parent-child relationship is
well established. See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467,
472-73 (Iowa 2018) (setting forth the statutory framework).
The burden is on the State to prove by clear and convincing
evidence (1) the statutory ground or grounds authorizing the
termination of parental rights and (2) "termination of
parental rights is in the best interest of the
child." See In re E.H., No. 17-0615, 2017 WL
2684420, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 21, 2017).
first address Rachell's challenge to the sufficiency of
the evidence. The juvenile court terminated Rachell's
parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f).
Under that section, as relevant here, the State was required
to prove by "clear and convincing evidence that at the
present time the child cannot be returned to the custody of
the child's parents as provided in section 232.102."
Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4). "At the present
time" means at the time of the termination hearing.
See A.M., 843 N.W.2d at 111. We have interpreted
this statutory provision to mean the State is required to
prove the child cannot be returned to the parent without
creating "an appreciable risk of adjudicatory harm"
to the child. See E.H., 2017 WL 2684420, at *1.
record supports the termination of Rachell's parental
rights. Rachell cannot meet the basic needs of the child.
Rachell does not have stable housing. She has lived in eight
different locations over the last two years. During the
pendency of this case, she has lived in a homeless shelter
for a period of time and in her truck. At the time of the
termination hearing, Rachell lived with a friend and his
mother. She had lived there only for one month, and she
admitted the housing is likely temporary. She has not
discussed with her friend whether he and his mother would
allow D.H. to live in the house. The house has only two
bedrooms, both of which are occupied. Rachell's unstable
housing militates in favor of termination. See In re
K.H., No. 16-0113, 2016 WL 1703095, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Apr. 27, 2016) (affirming termination where "the father
was unable [to] maintain safe and stable housing");
In re J.T., No. 14-0967, 2014 WL 4635527, at *2
(Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 17, 2014) (affirming termination where
"[a]t the time of the termination hearing, the mother
did not have stable housing"); In re C.N.G.,
No. 03-1717, 2003 WL 22900901, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 10,
2003) (finding "the parents' continued inability to
find suitable, safe housing" created risk for the
child); In re K.H., No. 03-0671, 2003 WL 21459582,
at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. June 25, 2003) ("[P]lacing K.H.
with [the father] would result in an ongoing risk of harm to
K.H. because of [the father's] lack of stable . . .
also has a number of health conditions, including traumatic
brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder,
agoraphobia, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline
personality disorder, and anxiety. Rachell testified that her
conditions prevent her from doing everyday tasks, like
maintaining employment. The incident giving rise to
D.H.'s removal is probative of how Rachell's mental
health negatively affects her ability to parent. At the time
of removal, Rachell was living with her boyfriend, Lee. Lee
and Rachell got into an argument. In response, Rachell fled
into a cornfield with a pair of scissors and threatened to
harm herself. Lee was left to care for D.H. He was unable to
locate Rachell and contacted the Iowa Department of Human
recognize "mental disability of a parent is not a
sufficient reason alone for the termination of parental
rights." In re A.M.S., 419 N.W.2d 723, 733
(Iowa 1988); accord In re K.F., 437 N.W.2d 559, 560
(Iowa 1989). However, a parent's mental health is a
factor that should be considered when evaluating that
parent's ability to care for his or her child. See
A.M.S., 419 N.W.2d at 733-34. Here, despite having a
slew of mental-health conditions for over a decade, Rachell
failed to meaningfully address the conditions during the
pendency of the case. She admitted her conditions impair her
ability to provide adequate care for the child. Rachell's
failure to seek treatment for her mental-health conditions
supports termination of her parental rights. See In re
A.Z., No. 18-1420, 2018 WL 4909831, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Oct. 10, 2018) (affirming termination when the mother
"was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, major depressive
disorder, and anxiety disorder among other things, but she
did not engage in mental-health treatment"); In re
A.S., No. 17-1810, 2018 WL 542646, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App.
Jan. 24, 2018) ("Both parents have significant untreated
mental-health conditions, which has also prevented them from
providing appropriate care for the child."); In re
T.H., No. 17-1558, 2017 WL 6520731, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Dec. 20, 2017) (terminating parental rights when mother
"did not address her mental-health conditions");
In re S.C., No. 15-0262, 2015 WL 2089743, at *3
(Iowa Ct. App. May 6, 2015) ("We . . . conclude that
Kristin's untreated mental health conditions create a
risk of harm to the child and support the termination of her
history of substance abuse, including the use of
methamphetamine and marijuana, supports the termination of
her parental rights in D.H. Rachell underwent a
substance-abuse evaluation in May 2017. However, she failed
to maintain contact with her substance-abuse counselor and
was discharged from treatment. Rachell has not sought
treatment since that time. She admitted to using
methamphetamine as recently as June 2018. She admitted to
"falsely passing" drug tests. Untreated
substance-abuse disorders create a risk of harm for the child
and support termination of parental rights. See
A.Z., 2018 WL 4909831, at *1-2 (finding unsuccessful
treatment of substance abuse militates in favor of
termination); A.S., 2018 WL 542646, at *1
(collecting cases); In re M.A., No. 07-0907, 2007 ...