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In re D.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.B., Minor Child, L.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Audubon County, Amy L. Zacharias, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to one child.

          Jonathan J. Mailander of Mailander Law, Atlantic, for appellant mother.

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

          William T. Early, Harlan, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., Mullins, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         A mother, Laura, appeals the termination of her parental rights to a child, D.B., who is now one year old, pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (e), and (h) (2018). She contends the State did not prove the statutory grounds for termination; termination would be detrimental to D.B. based on their bond; and the department of human services (DHS) failed to make reasonable efforts toward reunification. Finding no merit in any of these contentions, we affirm.

         I. FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

         D.B. was born in October 2017 and was immediately removed from Laura and placed with a foster family.[1] He tested positive at birth for amphetamines, methamphetamine, cannabinoids, and carboxy-THC. The DHS founded a child-abuse report against Laura for the presence of illegal drugs. Laura has a long history of substance abuse, uncontrolled mental-health impairments, and domestic-violence incidents. When D.B. was born, Laura reportedly was not taking her mental-health medication and demonstrated delusional thoughts. The juvenile court subsequently adjudicated D.B. a child in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) (physical abuse or neglect), (n) (impaired mental capacity or condition, imprisonment, or drug and alcohol abuse), and (o) (presence of an illegal drug due to acts of parent). It ordered Laura to attend counseling and obtain treatment for substance abuse and mental health, abstain from drugs and alcohol, and submit to drug testing. The court also ordered DHS to set up visitations.

          In the following months, service providers and social workers reported next to no improvement in Laura's condition. In November and December 2017, Laura participated in six out of twenty-two offered supervised interactions. She did not engage in substance-abuse treatment or mental-health therapy and continued to exhibit delusional thinking. Toward the end of December 2017, Laura was in jail in Douglas County, Nebraska, under theft charges. In the CINA dispositional order, the court noted Laura requested to have interactions with D.B. at the jail. The court denied that request.

         Seven months later, in July 2018, DHS reported once again that Laura made no progress. She had not maintained contact with the family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) worker or DHS; completed substance-abuse or mental-health evaluations; progressed in any services; or submitted to any drug testing. She attended three visitations over a six-month period. In its permanency order, the court changed the case goal to termination and adoption, and the State filed its petition for termination in September 2018.

         The court heard the evidence in the termination petition in November 2018. At that time, Laura was in Douglas County Jail on felony theft charges.[2] She did not complete ordered treatment or testing but was admitted to a drug treatment program through the jail and was participating in intensive outpatient treatment and cognitive behavior class. She was awaiting a hearing to determine whether she would remain in jail or be ordered into a mental-health respite program. She last saw D.B. at an interaction in July for a total of ten interactions over the year-long CINA proceeding. When asked if it was possible to have interactions with D.B. in the jail, her jail caseworker said no but some jail programs would allow it. At the termination hearing, Laura testified she was in a work release program for mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, which usually lasted two years. She testified she was taking her medications, but the court noted her testimony continued to be confused, rambling, and delusional.

         The court found termination appropriate under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), [3] ...


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