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In re R.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF R.B., Minor Child, T.B., Father, Appellant, L.W., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lynn Poschner, District Associate Judge.

         The mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Richard Hollis, Des Moines, for appellant father. Christine E. Branstad of Branstad & Olson Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          Karl Wolle of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          VOGEL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         The mother and father both appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. The mother argues the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination exist under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018), the district court should have granted her a six-month extension, termination was not in the best interests of the child, and termination was precluded due to relative placement and a strong bond between her and the child. Alternatively, the mother claims the district court should have established a guardianship. The father similarly argues he should be granted additional time to work toward reunification, termination is not in the best interests of the child, relative placement precludes termination, and a guardianship should have been established. We affirm the district court's determinations.

         I. Background Information

         R.B. was born in January 2016. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with this family in October 2017, after concerns the mother was using methamphetamine while caring for R.B.[1] The mother admitted to using marijuana and methamphetamine on and off for fifteen to twenty years. She reported she does not use while R.B. is in her care, but she admitted to resuming care within twenty-four hours after using methamphetamine. R.B. was removed from her mother's care on December 20 and placed in the care of her maternal aunt; R.B. was later placed in the care of the mother's cousin.

         The mother participated in a substance-abuse evaluation on January 11, 2018, and while it was recommended she attend treatment, she never sought treatment. In March, the mother's hair-stat test was positive for methamphetamine. After this test, the mother refused to provide any further samples for hair-stat tests. The mother also struggled with mental-health issues but failed to properly address them. Despite hearing voices, the mother believed she did not need to see a therapist or inform her medication provider that her medication did not stop the voices. In one of DHS's reports to the court, DHS recounted an incident during a visit on May 16, where the mother was "yelling and swearing at people who were not present and looking at [R.B.] while she did this."

         The father was incarcerated for trafficking methamphetamine at the time DHS began this assessment, but he was released on parole on March 9, 2018. After he was released, the father had a total of seven visits with R.B., one of which he fell asleep during. He was arrested again in August for six counts of forgery and was incarcerated while awaiting trial at the time of the termination hearing.

         The State filed a petition to terminate both parents' parental rights on August 18. On December 7, the district court found the State proved by clear and convincing evidence the grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h). The mother and father both appeal.

         II. ...


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