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In re A.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.M, D.M., Q.H., H.H., & D.H., Minor Children, T.M., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Fremont County, Craig M. Dreismeier, Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Vicki R. Danley, Sidney, for appellant mother.

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

          Ivan Miller of Billings & Mensen, Red Oak, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. Five children are affected by the termination order: A.M., born May 2006; D.M., born January 2009; Q.H., born October 2014; H.H., born February 2016; D.H., born July 2017. The mother and Joseph, the father of the youngest three children, were involved in the process leading to the termination of their parental rights.[1] Parental rights were terminated by order dated January 11, 2019. The mother's rights to all the children were terminated under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (i), and (l) (2018); as to A.M., D.M., and Q.H., her rights were terminated pursuant to section 232.116(1)(f); and her rights to H.H. and D.H. were terminated pursuant to section 232.116(1)(h). On appeal, the mother challenges the existence of grounds to terminate her parental rights and argues she should be granted an additional six months to seek reunification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Joseph's and the mother's relationship was physically violent, the violence having occurred in the presence of and sometimes involving the children. A five-year no-contact order did not dissuade the parents from having contact. The five children were removed from the mother's and Joseph's custody in August 2017 due to a domestic altercation between the parents that occurred in the presence of the children.[2] The mother was arrested and charged with child endangerment and domestic abuse assault; Joseph was arrested and charged with violating a no-contact order and child endangerment. The children were placed in protective custody.

         The children were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) on October 3, 2017, and remained in foster care. Both the mother and Joseph were again incarcerated after the adjudication hearing for continuing to violate the no-contact order. The children's out-of-home placements[3] continued following the juvenile court's dispositional order.

         The mother and Joseph both have a history of substance abuse, including marijuana and methamphetamine use. Joseph did not participate in services provided by the department of human services (DHS). However, the mother obtained a substance-abuse evaluation and completed substance-abuse treatment by a January 2018 review hearing. She was also engaged in mental-health treatment, including anger-management and domestic-violence services. When not in jail, the mother regularly visited the children.[4]

         A May 30, 2018 review hearing established that the mother was continuing to work with service providers, had participated in parenting classes, was employed, and had reported she was rejecting attempts by Joseph to contact her via social media. The mother provided negative drug screens through January and February and further drug screening was to be only as requested. The mother progressed to semi-supervised visits with the children from Friday to Sunday evening. She found suitable housing and remained employed. By June 29, 2018, the children were placed with the mother for a trial home visit.

         Unfortunately, soon after the children were returned to her care, the mother relapsed on methamphetamine and was involved in a new relationship with Colton, who has a violent criminal background. The mother did not share with service providers that she had relapsed or that she had a new partner living with her and the children.[5] At a drop-in visit on July 24, H.H. and Q.H. were observed outside unattended for several minutes. A child protective worker went into the home and saw an unknown male lying on the mother's bed. The worker thought the man exhibited physical indicators of methamphetamine use. The older children reported they were often unsupervised. The mother admitted she had been using methamphetamine with Colton while she was responsible for the care of the children. She also stated she was aware of Colton's prior domestic-violence and drug charges but maintained she trusted him ...


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