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In re K.A.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF K.A., K.M., and K.P., Minor Children, K.A., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Cheryl Traum, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the district court's separate orders terminating her parental rights to her three children K.A., K.M., and K.P. AFFIRMED.

          Christine Frederick of Zamora, Woods, Taylor & Frederick, Davenport, for appellant mother.

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

          G. Brian Weiler, Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE

         The mother of minor children K.A. and K.M., full siblings, and K.P., their half-sibling, appeals the termination of her parental rights. The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights to K.A. and K.M. under Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(d), (e), (f), (i), and (l) (2018) and her parental rights to K.P. under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (e), (h), (i), and (l) in two separate orders.[1] The mother does not challenge the district court's determination that the State met its burden to show the statutory grounds for termination. She only argues terminating her parental rights is not in the children's best interest and she should have instead been given additional time to work toward reunification. For the reasons described below, we conclude termination is proper.

         I. Background.

         K.A., K.M., and K.P. were born in 2008, 2012, and 2017, respectively. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) first came into contact with the family in April 2017 in response to reports of a physical altercation between the mother and K.P.'s father and substance abuse in the children's presence. On May 1, 2017, a hair analysis was performed on K.A. and K.M. K.P., being a baby, had too little hair to be tested. K.M.'s hair tested positive for cocaine. Each child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) on August 3, 2017, and remained in their mother's custody under DHS supervision. At that same adjudicatory hearing, the juvenile court directed the mother to comply with a DHS case plan. The case plan required the mother to complete substance- abuse and mental-health treatment, as well as establish stable housing. Following a removal hearing on December 6, 2017, the children were placed in foster care.[2] The juvenile court held a permanency hearing on September 25, 2018, during which the court determined the mother had not made sufficient progress toward resolving the issues noted in the case plan and directed DHS to file a petition to terminate the mother's and both fathers' parental rights. DHS filed a petition to terminate the mother's and both fathers' parental rights on November 29, 2018. The juvenile court terminated the mother's and both fathers' parental rights on March 29, 2019, and the mother appealed.

         II. Discussion.

         We review termination cases de novo. In re L.T., 924 N.W.2d 521, 526 (Iowa 2019). "We are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, but we do give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses." In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014).

         We apply a three-step analysis to review termination-of-parental-rights cases. In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018). First, we determine whether "any ground for termination under section 232.116(1) has been established." In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). If we determine a ground for termination has been established, we apply the best-interest framework described in section 232.116(2). A.S., 906 N.W.2d at 472; M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 219-20. "Finally, if we conclude the statutory best-interest framework supports termination, 'we consider whether any exceptions in section 232.116(3) apply to preclude termination of parental rights.'" A.S., 906 N.W.2d at 473 (quoting M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 220). The mother does not challenge the juvenile court's determination that the State has shown the statutory grounds for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1). Instead, she only argues terminating her parental rights is not in the children's best interest. We need not address whether the State has met its burden under section 232.116(1). See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010).

         Under section 232.116(2)'s best-interest framework, we must "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." On de novo review, we conclude ...


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