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In re T.P.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.P., Minor Child, A.P., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Page County, Amy L. Zacharias, Judge.

         The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child.

          Ryan M. Dale, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Vicki R. Danley, Sidney, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MAY, Judge.

         The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights to her child, T.P. On appeal, the mother argues (1) the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination exist under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2018) and failed to make reasonable efforts toward reunification; (2) termination is not in the child's best interest; (3) the mother's strong bond with T.P. precludes termination; and (4) the mother should have been afforded additional time to seek out a new therapist for T.P. We affirm the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         T.P. was born in 2009. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) first became involved with T.P. in June 2017 when DHS received allegations that the mother was using methamphetamine-and even used methamphetamine with her daughter, T.P.'s older sister.[1] DHS also received allegations that Dominic, the mother's paramour, sexually abused the sister; that the sister told the mother about the abuse; and that, despite knowing of the abuse, the mother allowed Dominic to move back into the home. Ultimately, DHS found Dominic was responsible for committing the sexual abuse.[2] In addition, DHS found the mother was responsible for denying critical care and failing to provide supervision.

         DHS removed T.P. and the sister from the mother's custody and placed them in the care of their father, where T.P. remains. On October 5, T.P. and the sister were adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA) and formally removed from the mother's custody.

         In January 2018, the sister reported that Travis, another of the mother's paramours, had sexually abused her when she was fifteen years old. She reported that this abuse had occurred in the family home prior to the children's removal. After investigation, DHS found Travis was responsible for committing the sexual abuse.

         The sister also reported that, prior to removal, the mother had let the sister and T.P. "accompany her when she went to an unknown person's home to purchase marijuana and methamphetamines." DHS found the mother was responsible for this exposure.

         On August 22, the State filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental rights. A termination hearing was held on October 18 and 30. On January 14, 2019, the juvenile court issued an order terminating the mother's parental rights. The juvenile court observed:

This [c]ourt does not often find it necessary to terminate one parent's rights while leaving the child in the custody of the other parent. It is in extreme cases of neglect, abuse, and mistreatment that the [c]ourt finds there is no other choice to protect the child than to sever the parent/child relationship. This is one of those cases. A review of the record in this case is heartbreaking and devastating. [The mother] allowed her children to be in the worst of situations and when given the chance for many months to engage in services, she did not. [The mother] has made some personal progress with treatment but [T.P.] is simply unable to move past what has occurred.
The mother appealed. Our supreme court transferred the case to this court.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review termination proceedings de novo. In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010). "We examine both the facts and law, and we adjudicate anew those issues properly preserved and presented." In re C.S., No. 13-1796, 2014 WL 667883, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2014). "Although we are not bound by them, we give weight to the trial court's findings of fact, especially when considering credibility of witnesses." In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000).

         "We will uphold an order terminating parental rights if there is clear and convincing evidence of grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116." In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). "'Clear and convincing evidence' means there are no serious or substantial doubts as to the correctness [of] conclusions of law drawn from the evidence." C.B., 611 N.W.2d at 492.

         III. ...

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