IN THE INTEREST OF H.L., J.L., and M.L., Minor Children, N.L., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, William
Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights in her
William C. Glass, Keosauqua, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
K. Erhardt of Erhardt & Erhardt, Ottumwa, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
juvenile court terminated Nicole's rights in her
children, H.L., J.L., and M.L. pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(f) (2018). In this appeal, Nicole claims
termination of her parental rights is not in the best
interest of the children and the juvenile court should have
granted her an additional six months' time to seek
reunification with the children.
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 and need not be set forth in full herein.
See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73 (Iowa 2018)
(setting forth the statutory framework).
of background, the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS)
became involved with this family in July 2013 due to concerns
regarding the lack of supervision of the children. The family
again came to the attention of IDHS in August 2014 due to
Nicole's use of methamphetamine. In the four ensuing
years, Nicole failed to successfully address her substance
abuse. She was unsuccessfully discharged from treatment
programs a number of times and relapsed on multiple
occasions. In June of 2017, Nicole pleaded guilty to
conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Nicole was granted
a deferred judgment and placed on probation. She violated
multiple terms and conditions of her probation, including the
failure to engage in substance-abuse treatment. Nicole's
history of substance abuse and failure to seek treatment
militates in favor of termination. See In re K.H.,
No. 03-0671, 2003 WL 21459582, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. June 25,
2003) ("The termination of Joe's parental rights was
based on his inability to . . . fully address his chemical
dependency issues."); In re E.C., No. 02-0421,
2002 WL 987987, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. May 15, 2002) (finding
mother's methamphetamine addiction supported the
conclusion that termination was in the child's best
interest); In re N.F., 579 N.W.2d 338, 341 (Iowa Ct.
App. 1998) (concluding mother's substance abuse supported
termination of her parental rights).
also failed to receive recommended mental-health evaluations
and treatment. See In re A.W., No. 18-1106, 2018 WL
4361086, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 12, 2018) (affirming
termination when father did not seek treatment
"[d]espite the offer of services to address his
substance-abuse and mental-health issues"). 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").
with her substance abuse and mental-health conditions, Nicole
failed to obtain stable employment or housing. See In re
K.H., No. 16-0113, 2016 WL 1703095, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Apr. 27, 2016) (affirming termination of parental rights
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 of parental rights where "[a]t the time of
the termination hearing, the mother did not have stable
housing"); In re R.C., No. 03-1134, 2003 WL
22092677, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 10, 2003) (affirming
termination of parental rights where father had "a
history of unstable housing and employment"). She has
held a variety of jobs, but she has only maintained them for
short periods of time. She has lived in a number of
residences. The IDHS worker assigned to Nicole's case
testified that Nicole's current home is not suitable for
these circumstances in mind, we address Nicole's claim
the termination of her parental rights is not in the best
interest of her children. Specifically, Nicole contends
termination of her parental rights is not in the best
interest of the children because it would result in the
separation of the siblings from each other. In determining
the best interest of the children, we "give primary
consideration to the child[ren]'s safety, to the best
placement for furthering the long-term nurturing and growth
of the child[ren], and to the physical, mental, and emotional
condition[s] and needs of the child[ren]." Iowa Code
general rule, "siblings should be kept together when
possible." In re N.V., Nos. 1999-432, 9-685,
98-1487, 1999 WL 1255724, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 27,
1999). "However, the paramount concern in
[termination-of-parental-rights] cases must be the
child[ren]'s best interests." In re T.J.O.,
527 N.W.2d 417, 420 (Iowa Ct. App. 1994). Here, the best
interest of the children supports the termination of parental
rights even if the termination of Nicole's parental
rights results in the legal separation of the children. The
family has been involved with services for a lengthy period
of time, but Nicole's visits with the children remain
fully supervised. See In re M.C., No. 18-0875, 2018
WL 6418760, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2018) (finding
parents' failure to progress beyond fully-supervised
visits supported a finding that termination was in the
children's best interest); In ...