IN THE INTEREST OF A.F., A.F., A.F., and S.F., Minor Children, K.F., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J.
Tabor, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
Barbara E. Maness, Davenport, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
David Zimmerman, Clinton, guardian ad litem for minor
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ. Tabor,
mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her
parental rights to her children. She contends the State
failed to make reasonable efforts and termination is contrary
to the children's best interests. She also contends the
juvenile court should have continued the termination hearing
given its observations concerning her mental status. We
review orders terminating parental rights de novo. See In
re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).
children were removed from the mother's care and
adjudicated to be children in need of assistance (CINA) in
April 2018 due to concerns regarding the mother's
substance-abuse and mental-health issues, as well as domestic
violence in the home. Aside from one attempt at reunification
with one of the children that lasted less than thirty days,
the children have remained out of the mother's care since
the initial removal. When the mother failed to make progress
on the issues that led to the CINA adjudication, the State
petitioned the court to terminate the mother's parental
rights. At the termination hearing, the mother admitted she
was using methamphetamine and that the children could not be
returned to her care. The juvenile court entered an order
terminating the mother's parental rights under Iowa Code
section 232.116(1)(d), (h), and (i) (2018).
mother contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts
to return the children to her care. See Iowa Code
§ 232.102(9) (requiring the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) to "make every reasonable effort to
return the child to the child's home as quickly as
possible consistent with the best interests of the
child"). Although the State has an obligation to make
reasonable efforts toward reunification of the family,
"a parent has an equal obligation to demand other,
different, or additional services prior to a permanency or
termination hearing." In re A.A.G., 708 N.W.2d
85, 91 (Iowa Ct. App. 2005).
In general, if a parent fails to request other services at
the proper time, the parent waives the issue and may not
later challenge it at the termination proceeding. If a parent
has a complaint regarding services, the parent must make such
challenge at the removal, when the case permanency plan is
entered, or at later review hearings. Moreover, voicing
complaints regarding the adequacy of services to a social
worker is not sufficient. A parent must inform the juvenile
court of such challenge.
In re C.H., 652 N.W.2d 144, 148 (Iowa 2002)
unclear how the mother asserts she preserved error on her
claim concerning the State's failure to make reasonable
efforts. However, our review of the record does not disclose
that she requested additional services at any time prior to
termination. In each review order, the juvenile court found
that the State was making reasonable efforts. The juvenile
court reiterated this finding in its termination order.
Nothing in the record documents that the mother requested any
additional services. Accordingly, we find the mother failed
to preserve this issue for our review.
mother next contends termination of her parental rights is
contrary to the children's best interests. See In re
D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706-07 (Iowa 2010) ("If a
ground for termination is established, the court must,
secondly, apply the best-interest framework set out in
section 232.116(2) to decide if the grounds for termination
should result in a termination of parental rights."). In
making this determination, our primary considerations are
"the child's safety," "the best placement
for furthering the long-term nurturing and growth of the
child," and "the physical, mental, and emotional
condition and needs of the child." In re P.L.,
778 N.W.2d 33, 37 (Iowa 2010) (quoting Iowa Code §
232.116(2)). The "defining elements in a child's
best interest" are the child's safety and "need
for a permanent home." In re H.S., 805 N.W.2d
737, 748 (Iowa 2011) (citation omitted). Throughout the
proceedings, the mother failed to participate in the services
offered to her and failed to show any discernible improvement
with regard to the risks she presented. The mother conceded
the children could not be returned safely to her care at the
time of the termination hearing. As the court noted in the
termination order, "recent visits between the mother and
the children have deteriorated to the point where ...