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In re A.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.R. and A.R., Minor Children, A.A., Mother, Appellant.

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

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two teenage daughters.

          Julie De Vries of De Vries Law Office, PLC, Centerville, for appellant mother.

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

          Debra A. George of Griffing & George Law Firm, PLC, Centerville, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         A mother, Amanda, seeks reversal of the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights because her two teenage daughters object to the termination. She believes the court should have applied Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(b) (2018) to save the parent-child relationship. We respect the daughters' heartfelt testimony opposing termination of their mother's rights. But after our independent review of the record, [1] we conclude their objections do not override their need for a stable, permanent home.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Amanda's older daughter, An.R., was twelve years old and her younger daughter, Au.R., was ten years old when they were adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA) in April 2015. The CINA adjudication followed the execution of a search warrant in Amanda's home in March 2015. Police found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia accessible to the children. Amanda admitted to using methamphetamine for several months leading up to her arrest. Amanda was in jail from September 2015 until April 2016; she then moved to a halfway house. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) caseworker expressed concerns about Amanda's mental-health stability. Amanda successfully completed substance-abuse treatment in October 2016. During these eighteen months, the DHS placed An.R. and Au.R. with suitable custodians.

          In January 2017, the juvenile court returned legal custody of the girls to Amanda, instructing her to follow the DHS case plan. The plan explained "safe case closure" would require Amanda "to provide a safe home free from substance abuse and she must maintain stable mental health." But Amanda did not meet those requirements. In March 2017, Amanda tested positive for methamphetamine. She acknowledged frequent use of methamphetamine between December 2016 and February 2017. Amanda also reported hearing voices and experiencing bipolar symptoms. In May 2017, the juvenile court followed the DHS recommendation to leave the girls in Amanda's care under a safety plan. The hopes for continued reunification were short-lived. Amanda relapsed on methamphetamine again in July 2017, leading to another removal. An.R. and Au.R have been in the same foster home since September 2017.

         For the next year, Amanda continued to struggle with her mental-health and substance-abuse issues. She missed therapy appointments and did not adhere to a medication regimen. In March 2018, she was hospitalized for psychiatric care. When Amanda resumed visitation with the girls in April 2018, her thinking was still not clear. For instance, Amanda told An.R. she had been gang raped and one of the men was the rapper Eminem. Amanda also told An.R. "Jesus is Satan" and "Satan is Jesus." Later in April, Amanda sent a text message to the DHS caseworker telling her to update the relative search because Amanda's father is Eminem. The girls refused several visits in May because of their mother's bizarre behavior. Amanda continued to use methamphetamine and marijuana that spring. She was unsuccessfully discharged from a treatment program in June 2018.

         By August 2018, Amanda's visits with her daughters had improved. The girls both attended and enjoyed the interactions.

         In September 2018, the State filed petitions to terminate Amanda's parental rights as to An.R. and Au.R.[2] At that point, the girls had been adjudicated as CINA for almost forty-one months. The juvenile court heard the matter on November 8, 2018. Debra George, who served as the children's attorney and guardian ...


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