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In re A.T.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.T. and Q.T., Minor Children, ST., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda Belcher, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Shireen L. Carter of Shireen Carter Law Office, PLC, Norwalk, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Kimberly Ayotte of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights. The mother concedes the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights have been met but claims termination is not in the best interests of the children. We conclude it is in the children's best interests to terminate the mother's parental rights. We affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         S.T., mother, and Q.T., father, are the parents of Q.T., born in 2013, and A.T., born in 2015.[1] The mother has a history of mental-health problems and has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Q.T. was removed from the parents' care on January 6, 2014, when the mother abandoned the child at the House of Mercy, a residential treatment facility. The mother was a teenager and was herself a child in need of assistance (CINA) when these juvenile court proceedings began. Q.T. was adjudicated to be a CINA. The child was returned to the mother in March 2014, with the condition she reside with the maternal grandmother.

         Both children, Q.T. and A.T., were removed from the mother's care on July 1, 2015, because the mother allowed drug users and sexual offenders to have contact with the children. The children were placed with the paternal grandmother. A.T. was adjudicated to be a CINA. In August 2015, the mother tested positive for marijuana. The mother participated in services and attended visitation but was overwhelmed when trying to care for the children and was unable to meet their needs on a consistent basis. On July 15, 2016, the juvenile court granted the parents a six-month extension to work on reunification with the children.

         In January 2017, the juvenile court ordered the children placed in the father's care on a trial basis. The children were removed from his care on September 1, 2017, due to lack of supervision and proper hygiene and were then temporarily placed with the mother. The mother was inconsistent in attending therapy for her mental health. Also, she and her paramour were involved in an incident of domestic violence. On December 8, the mother tested positive for marijuana. Furthermore, the mother continued to drive although she did not have a driver's license or insurance. On December 20, 2017, the children were again placed with the paternal grandmother. In May 2018, the paternal grandmother developed health problems and the children were placed in foster care.

         After the children were removed from her care, the mother was evicted from her apartment and rendered homeless. Her relationship with her paramour continued to involve incidents of domestic violence. She was minimally involved in services. She was also sporadic in attending visitation.

         On November 16, 2018, the State filed a petition seeking termination of the parents' rights. After a hearing, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights to Q.T. under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) and (g) (2018) and to A.T. under section 232.116(1)(g) and (h).[2] The court found, "There are ongoing concerns about the safety of the children if returned to the care and custody of either parent. The children cannot be safely returned to their mother or father." The court ...


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