IN THE INTEREST OF J.C. and M.C., Minor Children, J.S.-C., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J.
Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother appeals the order terminating her parental
relationship with her two sons.
MaryBeth A. Fleming of MaryBeth Fleming Law Office, P.C.,
Dubuque, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Hefel, Dubuque, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
mother, Jameela, challenges the juvenile court's order
terminating her parental relationship with her sons,
seven-year-old J.C. and ten-year-old M.C. Jameela contends
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to make
reasonable efforts to reunite her with J.C. and M.C. The
juvenile court found "significant services were offered
to mother, but she refused to participate in them and then
chose to move to a different state rendering it impossible
for the [DHS] to provide any meaningful services." After
reviewing the record,  we reach the same conclusion as the
Facts and Prior Proceedings
first became involved with the family in February of 2017
after receiving a report of suspected physical abuse by
Jameela. The DHS investigated but ultimately did not confirm
the report. The following month, the DHS received a second
report of abuse, which an investigation confirmed. In April,
the DHS received a third report alleging Jameela left J.C.
and M.C. in her car unattended while she worked her shift at
a Dubuque home-improvement store. Police officers found the
children in the car, and a child-abuse assessment found a
denial of critical care. Jameela initially agreed to
participate in services through the DHS. But when the DHS
tried to form an action plan, Jameela refused to sign
releases or provide necessary information.
May, Jameela stopped taking the boys to school, indicating
she intended to homeschool them. The DHS grew increasingly
concerned about the boys' safety when workers were unable
to locate the family and Jameela refused to disclose their
whereabouts. So the DHS sought a temporary removal order that
same month. In late May, the DHS finally located J.C. and
M.C. after Jameela took them to the Indiana Department of
Children Services. Iowa DHS caseworkers traveled to Indiana,
retrieved the boys, and placed them in foster care under the
juvenile court's May temporary removal order.
2017, after a hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated the
children in need of assistance (CINA). At the July hearing,
Jameela explained her evasive behavior and refusal to
disclose information for coordination of services was
motivated by her fear her abusive ex-husband would locate the
family. But Jameela also told the juvenile court she no
longer feared her ex-husband, and the DHS caseworker
testified Jameela had recently been in contact with him. The
juvenile court ordered continued foster-care placement,
noting the obstacles Jameela's lack of cooperation placed
in the way of the DHS coordinating services to address
concerns for the children's safety.
following months, DHS and Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency
(FSRP) workers offered Jameela phone calls and weekly
face-to-face visits with J.C. and M.C., but Jameela's
attendance was sporadic. J.C. and M.C. told caseworkers they
did not want to see or speak to Jameela because they were
afraid. But caseworkers alleviated their fears by crafting a
safety plan, and J.C. and M.C. participated in visitations
when Jameela attended. Court-ordered mental-health
evaluations for the boys revealed concerns of extensive abuse
at the hands of Jameela. In the fall of 2017, J.C. and M.C.
began therapy in Guttenberg, Iowa. The boys progressed in
therapy, and Jameela began attending joint sessions with
them. But the boys' therapist recommended against joint
counseling with their mother when the boys began to regress
as a result of Jameela's participation. By the January
2018 review hearing, the Guttenberg therapist terminated the
counseling relationship because Jameela repeatedly showed up
at the therapist's office unannounced, and the therapist
felt she could not ensure the boys' safety should the
juvenile court's January 2018 order following the review
hearing again set the permanency goal as reunification. To
facilitate this goal, the court ordered continued FSRP
services and therapy for J.C. and M.C. The court also asked
Jameela to consistently schedule and attend visits, comply
with therapy, follow the recommendations of the mental-health
evaluation she submitted earlier that month, and again