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In re G.J.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 1, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF G.J., Minor Child,
v.
V. L., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Adam D. Sauer, District Associate Judge.

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

          Michael J. Moeller of Sorensen & Moeller Law Office, Clear Lake, for appellant mother.

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

          Crystal L. Ely of North Iowa Youth Law Center, Mason City, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights. She claims the State did not show by clear and convincing evidence her parental rights should be terminated, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to make reasonable efforts at reunification, and she should be granted additional time. We find reasonable efforts were made to reunify the family and the child could not be safely returned to the mother's care even with additional services and time. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         V.L. is the mother of G.J., born in 2017. The mother listed several putative fathers to the child throughout the proceedings. The mother's rights had been terminated to an older child in early 2016 following two years of services.

         On October 15, 2017, the child was removed from the mother's care following a domestic dispute between the mother and her paramour. The mother is deaf and mute. While law enforcement were in the home investigating the domestic dispute, the mother picked up and abruptly moved the three-month-old infant back and forth in a jerky manner without supporting the child's head, and the child's head struck the mother's shoulder. The child was hospitalized for observation and the mother was charged with child endangerment.[1] When released from the hospital, the child was placed with the foster family that adopted the older sibling. The child was adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA) on December 1.

         In addition to services provided by DHS and Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency services (FSRP), the mother also worked with service providers from Deaf Iowans Against Abuse (DIAA) and Crisis Intervention Service. In July, the court ordered interpreters be present at all visitations and in-person interactions between the mother, DHS, and FSRP.

         The mother preferred a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) to American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, stating she primarily spoke a pidgin version of sign language. The interpreters available to DHS for in-person visits were ASL interpreters; the only CDI interpreters meeting DHS standards were based in other states. The mother was able to communicate with the ASL interpreters. The court ordered the CDI interpreters be available in person at court hearings, and approved availability through a video chat during FSRP and DHS sessions with the mother.[2] Early in the case, visitation occurred whether or not an interpreter was available. Following the court's order, later visits where an interpreter was not available were rescheduled.

         DHS, FSRP, and the mother's DIAA advocate all worked to get the mother into ASL classes to facilitate her communication abilities. When the mother moved back to Mason City in February, she no longer had transportation to in-person ASL classes she was signed up for in Charles City. In August, the DIAA advocate helped the mother enroll in an online ASL class. The mother did not participate in any of the classes, blaming her time in jail and then lack of an iPad as preventing her attendance. The mother provided conflicting communication information to providers. At times, she would claim to be unable to ...


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