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In re B.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 15, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF B.S. and T.S., Minor Children, S.S., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Rose Ann Mefford, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two children.

          Michael S. Fisher of Fisher Law Office, Oskaloosa, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Diane Crookham-Johnson of Crookham-Johnson Law Office PLLC, Oskaloosa, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Tabor, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         The mother, Sarah, appeals the termination of her parental rights to eight-year-old B.S. and ten-year-old T.S. The juvenile court terminated her rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d) and (f) (2018). Sarah maintains the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence and termination is not in the children's best interests.[1]

         We review termination proceedings de novo. In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 773 (Iowa 2012). "Our primary concern . . . has always been the best interests of the child[ren]." In re L.T., 924 N.W.2d 521, 529 (Iowa 2019). We begin by considering the statutory grounds. "When the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile court's order on any ground we find supported by the record." A.B., 815 N.W.2d at 774. We consider the grounds of section 232.116(1)(f), which allows the court to terminate parental rights if all of the following factors are met:

(1) The child is four years of age or older.
(2) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance pursuant to section 232.96.
(3) The child has been removed from the physical custody of the child's parents for at least twelve of the last eighteen months, or for the last twelve consecutive months and any trial period at home has been less than thirty days.
(4) There is clear and convincing evidence that at the present time the child cannot be returned to the custody of the child's parents as provided in section 232.102.

         Sarah challenges the fourth factor-whether B.S. and T.S. could be returned to her care at the time of the termination hearing. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4); In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010) (interpreting the term "at the present ...


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