IN THE INTEREST OF A.L., Minor Child, A.L., Father, Appellant, D.W., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt,
District Associate Judge.
mother and father separately challenge the termination of
their parental rights. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.
Cathleen J. Siebrecht of Siebrecht Law Firm, Des Moines, for
appellant father. Elizabeth A. Ryan of Benzoni Law Office,
P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Fuson of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian
ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
mother and father separately challenge the termination of
their parental rights to their minor child.
Background Facts and Proceedings
mother and father are the parents of A.L., born in July 2015.
The child came to the attention of the Iowa Department of
Human Services (DHS) in January 2017. As the mother was in
the process of being arrested for operating a motor vehicle
while intoxicated, she disclosed to police that she had left
her five children unattended in a hotel room. The
children's ages ranged from ten years old to one year
old, the youngest being the child in interest. When police
arrived at the hotel, they found the children in a room in
deplorable condition. Soiled diapers, dirty laundry, and
trash littered the floor; the room had a foul odor;
mattresses were torn apart; and electrical wires were
exposed. The younger children's diapers were soiled and
had not been changed for several hours. Police believed the
mother had likely left the children unattended on previous
occasions. The police also believed the older children's
responses to questions suggested the mother coached the
children on what to say. The mother was subsequently charged
with multiple counts of child endangerment and jailed. After
its investigation, DHS returned founded child-abuse
assessments against the mother for denial of critical care in
relation to each child.
court ordered the children's immediate removal from the
mother's care and placed the children in the temporary
custody of DHS. None of the children's fathers were in a
position to have the children placed with them, so the
children ultimately ended up in foster care. DHS provided
supervised visitation for the mother and father of A.L. DHS
recommended substance-abuse treatment, individual therapy,
and parenting classes for the mother and recommended
substance-abuse treatment and individual therapy for the
court adjudicated A.L., along with the other children, to be
a child in need of assistance (CINA) in February. Because
none of the children's fathers were in a position to care
for the children when they were removed from the mother's
care, the court also considered this a removal from all the
father of A.L. suffers from several mental-health issues and
takes medication. He also has a history of drug use,
including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. The father
suffered a stroke when he was twenty-one years old due to
excessive methamphetamine use. The father attended treatment
but relapsed in May 2017. He also had a mental breakdown and
was subsequently hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. The
father stopped attending treatment and therapy services after
claiming his counselor suggested they go buy some
methamphetamine together. The father struggled with housing
and employment. After his relapse, the father became
inconsistent with his visitation, missing a month's worth
of visits. He informed DHS this was due to needing some
personal time. Due to his behaviors, DHS believed the father
had relapsed again. The mother reported that domestic
violence was present in all of her relationships, including
with the father. The father denied physically abusing the
mother but admitted the relationship with his paramour was
volatile and he had physically abused her. He was arrested in
June for throwing a brick through his paramour's window.
June, the mother was arrested for driving while barred as a
habitual offender and spent over a month in jail. Once
released, she was homeless. She stayed with family or
friends, including an uncle who was an active alcoholic. In
July, the mother reported she was pregnant. In August, she
entered Hope Ministries shelter and began engaging in its
substance-abuse and mental-health services. Due to the
mother's progression in services, her visitation with the
children increased and ultimately the two oldest children
were returned to her care in December. The mother also gave
birth to another child in December. The three youngest
children were returned to her care in January 2018. The court
conditioned the children's return to the mother's
care on her continued placement at Hope Ministries.
the children were placed with the mother, she struggled to
balance her treatment with meeting the children's needs.
She often blamed her inability to gain insight and attend
required classes on the fact that she had six children. The
room she shared with the children was in disarray and
appeared to be on a path to the deplorable conditions found
in the hotel, which led to the children's removal and
DHS's intervention. In May, the mother was discharged
from Hope Ministries after being unable to successfully
complete its program. She failed to follow through on
expectations, had unauthorized medication, and failed to take
accountability. Due to having no housing, the mother became
despondent and threatened to kill herself. She was
hospitalized for a short period of time on a psychiatric
evaluation hold. All the children were again removed from her
care. A.L. was placed with the paternal grandmother, and the
other children were placed in foster care. When DHS spoke
with the mother about the importance of ongoing therapy, the
mother reported she had reengaged in mental-health services.
However, her therapist reported to DHS that she had not seen
the mother in over a year and the mother failed to attend a
recent appointment. The mother then began sessions with a new
father was incarcerated on two occasions for forgery during
the proceedings, in December 2017 and August 2018. In its
October permanency order, the court found the father was not
in a position to have custody and that both the mother and
father were not making reasonable progress to achieve the
permanency goal of reunification or complying with other
provisions of the permanency plan. The court modified the
permanency goal from reunification to termination of parental
rights. In December, the State petitioned to terminate both
parents' rights. It sought to terminate the ...