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In re K.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 3, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF K.M., Minor Child, R.R., Mother, Appellant, S.M., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cedar County, Gary P. Strausser, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child.

          Sara Strain Linder of Bray & Klockau, Iowa City, for appellant mother.

          Lisa Renee Jones of Norton, Baumann & Surls, PLLC, Lowden, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Don W. Schroeder of Schroeder Law Firm PLC, West Liberty, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MAY, JUDGE.

         The juvenile court terminated a mother and father's parental rights to their child, K.M. On appeal, both parents contend the juvenile court erred (1) in concluding the statutory requirements for termination were satisfied. Additionally, the mother contends the juvenile court erred (2) in declining to provide her with an additional six months to work toward reunification, (3) in finding termination is in K.M.'s best interest, and (4) in terminating despite a strong parent-child bond and K.M.'s placement with a relative. We affirm the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         K.M. was born in 2017. Prior to K.M.'s birth, the parents' drug use led the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to become involved with respect to their older children.[1] The mother continued to use methamphetamine while pregnant with K.M. The mother gave birth to K.M. three weeks early; as a result, K.M. had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for one week. K.M.'s umbilical cord blood tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamine. The mother also tested positive for amphetamines.

         The juvenile court issued an emergency order removing K.M. from both parents' care. The court then adjudicated K.M. as a child in need of assistance and placed K.M. in the custody of a maternal aunt.

         DHS experienced difficulty in providing services to the parents. The parents' phones were shut off at one point, preventing communication with DHS. And the parents failed to meet with the social worker tasked with compiling their social history. Likewise, both parents often arrived late or failed to attend visitation, though the mother attended more often than the father. During visitation, the mother sometimes exhibited signs of stimulant crash, such as sleeping so soundly that the care coordinator had to wake her up.

         Animosity also began to grow between the mother and her sister, K.M.'s placement. The mother believed her sister intended to "steal[]" K.M. The mother's sister grew suspicious that the mother continued to abuse methamphetamine. She also felt the mother had become belligerent toward her and did not respect her or her husband. As a result, the sister ultimately refused to supervise any additional visitation for the parents.

         Shortly after K.M.'s birth, the mother sought intensive outpatient substance-abuse treatment, but she failed to attend individual appointments or group therapy. This prompted the treatment facility to recommend the mother be reevaluated to determine her treatment options. The mother showed signs of drug use at a January 2018 meeting. She tested positive for methamphetamine in March 2018. However, the mother began substance-abuse treatment that same month. According to a July 2018 letter from her care provider, the mother continued to progress in treatment up to that point in time.

         Meanwhile, the father also struggled with substance abuse, testing positive for amphetamines and methamphetamine in December 2017. And he exhibited signs of drug use at the January 2018 meeting. In February 2018, the father completed a substance-abuse evaluation, which recommended extended outpatient treatment. In March 2018, he again tested positive for methamphetamine. The father entered substance-abuse treatment in April 2018 but did not complete the program.

         The juvenile court held a termination hearing in July 2018. The parents arrived late without explanation. The juvenile court ordered both parents to submit to drug testing, which was available in the courthouse. The mother's results were negative, but the father tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines.

         On March 14, 2019, the juvenile court terminated both the mother and father's parental rights to K.M. pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (h), and (l) (2018). Both parents appealed. Our supreme court transferred the case to this court.

         II. ...


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