IN THE INTEREST OF A.M., Minor Child, A.M., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Wright County, Paul B.
Ahlers, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
J. Kroona of Kroona Law Office, Webster City, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Douglas Cook of Cook Law Firm, Jewell, attorney and guardian
ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
minor child, born in 2007. She agrees that "statutory
grounds for termination existed at the time of
trial." She argues (1) the juvenile court should
have granted her an additional six months to work toward
reunification or, alternatively, established a guardianship
in relatives and (2) termination is not in the child's
best interests. Our review is de novo. In re L.T.,
924 N.W.2d 521, 526 (Iowa 2019). Our primary consideration is
the best interests of the child, In re J.E., 723
N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006), the defining elements of which
are the child's safety and need for a permanent home.
In re H.S., 805 N.W.2d 737, 748 (Iowa 2011).
family began participating in voluntary services with the
Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in September 2017. In
November, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine,
immediately after which the child was removed from the
parents' care pursuant to an agreed-upon safety plan. The
child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance in
February 2018. Shortly thereafter, the mother entered into a
"contract of expectations" with DHS, which was
largely aimed at remedying her substance-abuse issues.
However, the mother continued to test positive for
methamphetamine throughout the remainder of the proceedings,
including in January 2019, roughly a month before the
termination hearing. The mother was pregnant with a second
child during a portion of this time frame. The mother was
advised by the court at one point that she had to choose
between drugs and her child. The evidence shows she chose the
first consider the mother's request for an extension. If,
following a termination hearing, the court does not terminate
parental rights but finds there is clear and convincing
evidence that the child is a child in need of assistance, the
court may enter an order in accordance with section
232.104(2)(b). Iowa Code § 232.117(5). Section
232.104(2)(b) affords the juvenile court the option to
continue placement of a child for an additional six months if
the court finds "the need for removal . . . will no
longer exist at the end of the additional six-month
period." Given the mother's continued use of
methamphetamine throughout the entirety of these proceedings,
we, like the juvenile court, are unable to conclude the need
for removal will no longer exist at the end of an additional
six-month period. We affirm the juvenile court's denial
of the mother's request.
consider the mother's request for the establishment of a
guardianship and whether termination is in the best interests
of the child. The child was placed with her maternal aunt and
uncle in December 2018, where she remained at the time of the
termination hearing. She is thriving in this placement, and
the aunt and uncle intend to adopt the child upon
termination. Although section 232.104(2)(d) allows for the
establishment of a guardianship as a permanency option,
section 232.104(3) requires "a judicial determination
that [such a] planned permanent living arrangement is the
best permanency plan for the child." See In re
B.T., 894 N.W.2d 29, 32-33 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017).
the best permanency plan for a child is a best-interests
assessment. In determining what is in the best interests of a
child, we "give primary consideration to the child's
safety, to the best placement for furthering the long-term
nurturing and growth of the child, and to the physical,
mental, and emotional condition and needs of the child."
Iowa Code § 232.116(2).
we acknowledge that the mother and child are bonded and the
eleven-year-old child wishes to return to her mother's
care-although she understands why she cannot do so-we find
termination, as opposed to the establishment of a
guardianship, to be in the child's best interests. While
we hope the mother is able to prevail in her battle with
substance abuse, "we cannot deprive a child of
permanency after the State has proved a ground for
termination" upon such sentiments. In re A.B.,
815 N.W.2d 764, 777 (Iowa 2012). The mother has had ample
time to get her affairs in order and learn to be a
responsible parent. She has been unable to do so. This child
needs permanency and stability now. See id. at 778.
There are a number of stern realities faced by a juvenile
judge in any case of this kind. Among the most important is
the relentless passage of precious time. The crucial days of
childhood cannot be suspended while parents experiment with
ways to face up to their own problems. Neither will childhood
await the wanderings of judicial process. The child will
continue to grow, either in bad or unsettled conditions or in