IN THE INTEREST OF A.W., J.W., J.W., J.W., and M.W., Minor Children, S.W., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Kimberly
Ayotte, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the order terminating her parental rights to
M. Greenberg, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
ConGarry Williams of Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines,
attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
appeals the order terminating her parental rights to five
children: five-year-old Je.W., four-year-old twins Jo.W. and
Ju.W., three-year-old A.W., and two-year-old
She contends she was denied due process and equal protection
when the juvenile court refused her request for transcripts
of prior proceedings. Next, she contends the State failed to
prove the Iowa department of human services (DHS) made
reasonable efforts toward reunification. She also alleges it
is not in the children's best interests to terminate her
rights. Finally, she asserts the court should have denied the
petition to terminate based on the closeness of the
parent-child relationship and the children being in a
our independent review,  we share the conclusions of the
juvenile court and affirm termination.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
summer 2016, the DHS conducted two child-abuse investigations
of Shauna, returning assessments finding she failed to
provide adequate shelter, medical care, and supervision to
her four young children. The DHS workers discovered the
children in a filthy, pest-infested home with unexplained and
untreated burn injuries. One child had several painful,
rotting teeth, for which Shauna had not sought dental care.
Two children were outdoors without supervision; Shauna had
locked them in a room and they crawled out a window. The DHS
removed the children and placed them with their maternal
grandmother, Diane. At the time, Shauna was pregnant with the
youngest child, M.W., who was removed from her care a few
days after his birth.
was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and
borderline intellectual functioning. She acknowledged a
significant history of methamphetamine and alcohol use.
Although she has seen a therapist, she has derived little
benefit because her intellectual functioning makes it
difficult for her to grasp abstract concepts. Her therapist
reports her mental-health impairments significantly impact
her ability to parent. She does not acknowledge the
children's behavioral concerns, nor does she accept
feedback on her parenting. She was unable to provide a clean
and safe home environment for the children or obtain needed
medical or mental-health care for herself or the children.
She was homeless throughout the child-in-need-of-assistance
(CINA) case, staying with friends.
three oldest children display significant trauma-related
difficulties: Je.W. has speech delays and attends
psychotherapy to address her mental-health diagnosis of
adjustment disorder. As part of the DHS case plan, Shauna was
expected to participate in Je.W.'s therapy, but she had
only limited involvement. In the six months before the
termination hearing, Shauna did not attend and did not call
to ask about Je.W.'s progress. The therapist opined
Shauna disrupted Je.W.'s progress by threatening physical
discipline and telling Je.W. she would return to living with
Shauna. The therapist further reported Shauna's conduct
"has left [Je.W.] in limbo and has affected her sense of
similar vein, the therapist for Jo.W. and Ju.W. reported
neither child is able to talk about their mother or their
previous home life without "shutting down." They
both display severe symptoms of emotional and behavioral
dysregulation including anxiety, delays in motor and
cognitive skills, physical aggression, inability to form
positive relationships, inability to self-calm, and severe
sleep disturbances. The therapist also reported disturbances
from Shauna causing regression in their progress. The
therapist stressed the twins' immediate need for a
permanent caregiver and a minimization of ...