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In re A.S.-M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.S.-M. and A.C., Minor Children, C.C., Father of A.C., Appellant, K.S.-M., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F. Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two children. The father of one of the children appeals the termination of his parental rights.

          Michael M. Lindeman of Lindeman Law, Cedar Rapids, for appellant father. Annette F. Martin, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Robin L. O'Brien-Licht, Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother appeals from the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to two children. The father of the younger child appeals the order terminating his parental rights as well. Both argue the State failed to prove the statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence and ask for more time to work toward reunification. Upon our review of the record, we reach the same conclusions as the juvenile court and affirm termination of the parents' rights.[1]

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Keana is the mother of A.C. (born in 2016) and A.S.-M. (born in 2010).[2]A.C.'s father is Christopher.[3] The court initially ordered removal of the children from their home in April 2017 because Keana and Christopher were using methamphetamine while caring for them. The court placed the children with their maternal grandmother, where they have remained throughout this case.

         The court adjudicated the children in need of assistance (CINA) under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2017), finding Christopher and Keana's substance use and domestic violence placed the children in danger. Christopher has multiple convictions for assault with Keana as the victim. Keana has a history of relationships with violent partners, unstable mental health, psychiatric hospitalization, and substance abuse. Keana has assaulted others, including her mother. The parents continued to engage in a dysfunctional relationship, over the objections of social workers with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).

         The juvenile court ordered the parents to participate in drug testing, substance abuse treatment, mental health evaluations, and therapy to address domestic abuse issues. Throughout the next year, the parents were inconsistent in their efforts and made very little progress toward those case goals. In March 2018, the State petitioned to terminate parental rights.

         At the termination hearing in June, the DHS social worker pointed to several safety concerns for the children if they were returned to Keana-specifically, her mental health instability and substance abuse, including a relapse in May 2018.

         Both parents continued to struggle with addiction. Keana entered substance abuse treatment four times without success. She testified her next plan was a residential program in Arizona. Throughout this case, she and Christopher repeatedly tested positive for drugs: Keana tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine as recently as April 2018, and Christopher tested positive for either cocaine or methamphetamine in February, April, and May 2018. Although he participated in substance abuse treatment, the DHS caseworker opined Christopher had not "internalized" the information because he was still missing drug tests or testing positive. He admittedly continued to drink alcohol and surrounded himself with other drug abusers.

         Both parents have criminal records. During the case, Christopher incurred new charges for assault against Keana. The State also charged Christopher with violating the related no-contact order. ...


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