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In re L.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 19, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF L.H., S.H., P.H., and F.H., Minor Children, E.H., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Cynthia S. Finley, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.

          Robert W. Davison, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

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

          Julie Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         When she was fourteen or fifteen years old, E.H. met R.H., then in his late twenties. In 2011, when E.H. was eighteen, she married R.H. That year she gave birth to their oldest child, and she has since had three more children, the youngest born in December 2017. At the February 2019 termination-of-parental-rights hearing, the mother was pregnant and due in June.

         The mother is well aware of R.H.'s extensive substance-abuse problem. In approximately 2012, the mother and R.H. incurred felony drug charges in Missouri. The mother was placed on probation, and R.H. spent two years in prison. The mother reunited with R.H. upon his release from prison. Since that time, the mother has separated from the father numerous times, only to later reconcile with him.

         In 2017, the family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services after it was reported that R.H. was using and selling drugs in the family home. Two of the children tested positive for ingestion of methamphetamine, and all of the children's hair tests were positive for methamphetamine. The children were removed from the parents' care.

         The parents were "adamant that they intend[ed] to work toward reunification as a couple," even though the real concern was R.H.'s substance abuse and his lack of progress. The mother separated from R.H. starting in November 2017, just before their fourth child was due, because R.H. was not maintaining sobriety. That separation only lasted a few months, and in February 2018, the mother's sweat patch tested positive for methamphetamine. The baby was removed from her care, and the mother reconciled with R.H.

         Thereafter, the mother stated she wanted to be a family. However, R.H. continued to use illegal substances. The mother also had additional sweat patches test positive for illegal substances, though the mother denied that she herself used any drugs. In July 2018, the juvenile court directed the State to file petitions for termination of the parents' parental rights.

         At the February 2019 termination-of-parental-rights hearing, the mother testified she had ended her relationship with R.H. the week before the hearing, stating she was committed not "to live that lifestyle anymore. [She did not] want to be mentally or emotionally abused anymore. [She was] ready to just support [her] children and [herself] and move forward in life." The juvenile court was unconvinced and terminated her parental rights.[1]

         The mother appeals, asserting that the State did not prove the grounds for termination and that termination was not in the children's best interests. She maintains that because she testified she had left R.H. for good, the children were no longer in danger and her rights should not have been ...


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