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In re A.V.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

K.H., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

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

          Judith Jennings Hoover of Hoover Law Office, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

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

          Julie F. Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Tabor, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]


         A mother appeals the order terminating her parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018). The mother concedes the first three subsections have been established because the child is three years old or younger, has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA), and has been out of the parent's custody for at least six consecutive months. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(h)(1)-(3). She argues, however, the State has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence the child cannot be returned to her custody at the present time or within a reasonable extension of time. See id. § 232.116(1)(h)(4). She contends the two-month suspension of visits constitutes a failure to make reasonable efforts to reunify the mother and child. Further, she asserts the bond between mother and child provides a basis to avoid termination under section 232.116(3)(c).

         The child, A.V., was born in April 2017. She first came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) in July when her father left her in a car unattended and a child-abuse assessment referral was made.[1] Another assessment referral was made when the parents gave the child Benadryl and put her to bed face down on a pillow; she became unresponsive and was hospitalized. In addition, the child has been involved in one of the couple's domestic disputes. Another abuse assessment was completed in December when the child was repeatedly hospitalized due to the parents' failure to follow through with needed medication for the child's ear infections. The child was diagnosed failure to thrive and was removed from the parents' custody on December 14. The child was adjudicated CINA on December 19 and was placed in foster care. The child was severely underweight at the time she was removed from her parents' care.

         Visitation with the parents, which had been scheduled for three, one-hour visits per week, was suspended from June through July 2018 at the request of the child's primary physician. On June 19, the child's physician wrote that she had cared for the child since November 14, 2017. The physician expressed concern for the child:

When I assumed care for [A.V.] she was struggling with gaining weight and growing appropriately. She was having trouble meeting her developmental milestones. There were apparent parenting issues witnessed by me at her appointments. . . .
During the entire time of my care for [A.V.] since this time, feeding has been an issue and constant struggle. Part of her feeding issue is oral feeding refusal. She had been evaluated by speech therapy during one of her hospitalizations early in life, however, at [one] year of age, [A.V.] was starting to refuse feedings by mouth. I then had her start regular visits with a speech therapist on an outpatient basis to assist with what seemed to be oral aversion.
This letter is to detail my concern for [A.V.] with parental visitations. . . . [The child] recognizes and cries when she sees the DHS worker who takes her to her regular parental appointments. There is a specific car seat she uses to visit her parents and will cry when put in that seat specifically. Her parents often cancel or do no show for visitations, so [A.V.] does not visit with them consistently. However, she is consistent with her behavior following visitations with her biological parents and I feel this is becoming a detriment to her physical and mental health. Visits with parents are described as "volatile" as witnessed by the speech therapist after they attended an appointment and she had great concerns and came to me personally.
As of June 5, 2018, oral aversion has been ruled out as a diagnosis for [A.V.] by her speech therapist as she has varied eating acceptance in relation to parental visits and her feeding therapy has been put on hold. I and [the] speech therap[ist] have reached out to a psychiatrist to ask for therapies and to date, this has been hard for me to accomplish due to [A.V.'s] young age. There does seem to be a psychological relation ...

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