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In re J.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF J.K. and F.S., Minor Children, J.K., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Floyd County, Karen Kaufman Salic, District Associate Judge.

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

          Elizabeth A. Batey of Vickers Law Office, Greene, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Cynthia Schuknecht of Noah, Smith, Schuknecht & Sloter, P.L.C., Charles City, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          DOYLE, PRESIDING JUDGE

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her children: J.K., born in 2016, and F.S., born in 2018. She contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. She also alleges that the State failed to make reasonable efforts to return the children to her care and that termination is contrary to the children's best interests. She asks for an additional six months to allow the children to be returned to her care. We review her claims de novo. See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with the family after receiving concerns about the condition of the family's home in February 2018. Although the child protective assessment found the allegations of denial of critical care for failure to provide adequate shelter were not confirmed, it assessed "a high risk level" for the family. Specifically, it noted that the mother had a history of substance abuse and untreated mental illness and that "[e]very professional that came into contact with the family had concerns about the parenting and general care of the children." The mother's parental rights to her older children were terminated in 2013.

         The record documents a myriad of concerns about the children's safety and the mother's ability to provide adequate care. F.S. had scabies and was not gaining weight, although there was no medical reason for her failure to gain weight aside from not being fed enough. The mother appeared to be experiencing post-partum psychosis and needed prompting to provide care for F.S. J.K. had a speech delay and developmental delays in all areas except gross motor skills. Although J.K.'s teeth were rotten, the mother had never taken J.K. to the dentist. In general, the record shows the mother failed to recognize and provide for the children's needs.

         The children were removed from the mother's care in March 2018 and were adjudicated to be in need of assistance the following month. Following placement in foster care, J.K.'s speech improved significantly and F.S. began to gain weight. In contrast, the mother remained unemployed and struggled to maintain housing. The mother admitted to using both methamphetamine and heroin during the pendency of the child-in-need-of-assistance proceedings.

         The State filed a petition seeking to terminate the mother's parental rights to both children in August 2018, and a termination hearing was held in November 2018. Five days later, the juvenile court entered its order terminating the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(g) and (h) (2018).

         I. Grounds for Termination.

         The mother contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. Although the juvenile court terminated parental rights on more than one ground, we need only find grounds to terminate under one of the sections cited by the juvenile court to affirm. See In re S.R., 600 N.W.2d 63, 64 (Iowa Ct. App. 1999). In order to terminate ...


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