IN THE INTEREST OF S.C.-H., Minor Child, J.T., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Hamilton County, Paul B.
Ahlers, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
T. Deppe of Deppe Law Office, Jewell, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Douglas Cook, Jewell, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
mother appeals the juvenile court's termination of her
parental rights. She contends the State failed to make
reasonable efforts to reunify her with the child and prove
the statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing
evidence. Further, she contends termination is not in the
best interests of the child and requests additional time to
work toward reunification.
Background Facts and Proceedings
the mother and J.H. is the father of S.C.-H., born in June
2015. The child first came to the attention of
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) one month after
birth. During its investigation, DHS found the mother's
home unsafe and unsanitary. DHS observed garbage and clutter
littered throughout the entire home to the point that doors
could not be opened, which created potential fire hazards,
and rooms were rendered unusable. Further, the mother
suffered from mental-health issues, which were either the
cause of or exacerbated her hoarding behaviors. The
mother's involvement with the juvenile court system dates
back to at least 2010 with her older children. The safety of
the home was a concern during those earlier proceedings.
was adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA) in October 2015
and remained under the care of the mother with protective
supervision by DHS. At a dispositional review hearing in
April 2016, the court continued the child's CINA
adjudication and placement with the mother under DHS
protective supervision. The court noted improvement to the
mother's home. However, she had been unable to
consistently maintain a safe environment for the child.
July, after the mother delivered the child to the father for
a visitation, the father noticed bruising on the child's
face and ribs and the child had difficulty breathing; the
father had the child transported to the hospital. DHS also
noted multiple red marks, scratches, and bruising on the
child. Medical personnel diagnosed the child with four to
five fractured ribs in addition to noting multiple rib
fractures in various stages of healing, which did not occur
on one single occasion. The father also reported he noticed
the child had difficulty breathing when the mother dropped
off the child for another visitation two weeks earlier. The
child's stepmother noted healing bruises on the
child's rib area during that visitation. The child was
subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia.
neither DHS nor the court were able to determine in whose
care the child was when the injuries occurred or who
specifically caused the injuries, due in part because of a
time delay between when the mother dropped off the child to
the father and when the child was transported to the
hospital. DHS returned founded child-abuse assessments
against both parents for denial of critical care and physical
abuse. The parents consented to a voluntary removal and
placement of the child in foster care. The court subsequently
modified the CINA dispositional order to reflect the
out-of-home placement. In February 2017, the State petitioned
to terminate the mother's parental rights. The court
denied the State's petition and continued the child's
placement for an additional six months to allow for
removal, the mother's visitation began with
fully-supervised visits and progressed to semi-supervised
visits. However, the visitation returned to fully supervised
after DHS noted safety concerns with the mother's
parenting skills. The mother returned the child to daycare
and the foster parents with dirty and soaked diapers on
multiple occasions. The child also exhibited signs that the
diapers were not changed for an extended period of time. The
child's foster parents and daycare provider noted the
child acted confused and different after visits with the
mother, especially those less supervised by DHS. DHS also
noted multiple occurrences when the child wandered away from
the mother near traffic on the street or in a parking lot due
to the mother's lack of attention. Service providers were
also required to bring to the mother's attention
potentially dangerous situations, such as the child standing
or climbing up on chairs, rather than the mother recognizing
the danger ...