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In re B.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF B.H. and JR., Minor Children, J.H., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, William Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Mary Baird Krafka of Krafka Law Office, Ottumwa, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Samuel K. Erhardt of Erhardt & Erhardt, Ottumwa, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to B.H. and J.R., born in 2008 and 2009, respectively.[1] The mother maintains there is not clear and convincing evidence the children could not be returned to her care at the time of the termination hearing, termination is not in the children's best interests, and the district court erred in admitting hearsay evidence.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         This family first came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2009 due to the mother's use of methamphetamine, concerns regarding her mental health, and domestic violence in the mother's romantic relationship. Both children were adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA) before DHS ultimately closed the case.

         A second case was opened in July 2013, based upon the same issues. The children were again adjudicated CINA and removed from the mother's care for a period of time before DHS closed the second case in August 2015.

         The present case was initiated only one month later-in September 2015- upon allegations the mother was seen leaving a known drug house. The mother was asked to provide a sample for drug testing, and the result showed the mother was again using methamphetamine. The mother participated in services, but off and on for the next two years-until September 2017-the mother either admitted to use of or tested positive for methamphetamine. During this period, the children returned to their mother's care for a short time, but they were removed-for the final time-in November 2016, after the mother relapsed again. The court terminated her parental rights in July 2018 after a termination hearing in May and June 2018.

         It is undisputed the mother did not use methamphetamine from the time she entered inpatient substance-abuse treatment in mid-September 2017 through the first day of the termination hearing in mid-May 2018. Still DHS expressed concerns the mother was engaged in a romantic relationship with a man who continued to abuse drugs and had an open juvenile court case regarding his children. The mother was dishonest about the status of her relationship with the man, telling DHS the two had ended their relationship and then changing the date the relationship ended after being confronted with evidence they continued to see each other. Additionally, the family's social worker was sent a series of messages the mother and paramour had sent to each other, which established that the mother- even if not personally using methamphetamine-continued to associate with individuals who were and was at least considering buying the drug for others.

         The second day of the termination hearing took place in mid-June 2018. The social worker testified the mother had missed her last three scheduled therapy appointments-attending most recently in late March or early April 2018. Additionally, the family's service provider testified he had a parenting class with the mother a few days before and noticed her pupils looked enlarged. The only other time the provider had noticed this occurring was when he saw the mother in September 2015 and made the report that ultimately caused this third case to be opened-after which the mother tested positive for methamphetamine. The service provider informed the social worker of his suspicion the mother was under the influence, and the social worker asked the mother to provide a sample for drug testing later that day when the mother attended family treatment court. She did not test. At trial, the mother testified she was unable to ...


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