IN THE INTEREST OF J.B. and J.B., Minor Children, A.T., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Rose Ann
Mefford, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights.
Stiefel, Victor, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Clements of Clements Law & Mediation, LLC, Newton,
guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.
juvenile court terminated a mother's parental rights to
her children, Ja.B. and Jo.B. On appeal, the mother contends
the juvenile court erred in (1) denying the mother's
motion for recusal; (2) denying the mother's motion to
continue; (3) granting a motion to amend the termination
petition; (4) concluding the statutory requirements for
termination were satisfied; (5) finding termination was in
the children's best interests; (6) declining to apply a
permissive exception to termination; and (7) declining to
provide her with an additional six months to work toward
reunification. We affirm the juvenile court.
Background Facts and Proceedings
and Jo.B. were born in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Ja.B.
suffers from short bowel syndrome, a life-threatening medical
condition that requires an intensive treatment regimen. In
2016, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became
involved with this family after receiving reports that
Ja.B.'s medical needs were not being met.
received medical care at the Children's Hospital and
Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. However, the mother did
not bring him to several of his scheduled appointments. The
hospital banned both parents because they made
"concerning statements." As a result, most of
Ja.B.'s treatment was transferred to the University of
Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
effort to avoid removing the children from the home, the
juvenile court ordered DHS to provide daily homemaker-home
health aide services to the family. However, by May 2017, the
State applied for removal of the children from the home
because of the mother's admitted use of marijuana, the
parents' violation of an established safety plan, the
presence of methamphetamine paraphernalia in the home,
evidence the mother was not following essential medical
protocol with regards to Ja.B., and reports that Ja.B. was
found playing with knives. The same day, the court issued an
order removing the children. Both children were "dirty
and unclean" at the time of removal.
entered foster care. Ja.B. was admitted to the University of
Iowa hospital for a central line infection. Ja.B. also
underwent drug testing. He tested positive for marijuana,
methamphetamine, and amphetamine. Upon Ja.B.'s discharge,
he joined the same foster family that was caring for Jo.B.
2017, the juvenile court adjudicated Ja.B. as a child in need
of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b),
(c)(2), and (e) (2017). The court also adjudicated Jo.B. as a
child in need of assistance pursuant to section
same month, Ja.B. was admitted to the hospital over concerns
of a central line infection. However, the mother did not
visit Ja.B. in the hospital because she had an active warrant
related to a possession charge. Ultimately, the mother turned
herself in and pled guilty to the charge.
June, the mother received referrals for the Parents as
Teachers and Parent Partner programs. But in August, the
Parents as Teachers provider could not make contact with the
mother. So the provider ventured out to her home. The
provider found the home abandoned and dismissed the family
from the program. The family was also dismissed from the
Parent Partner program due to a lack of engagement. The
family again sought out the Parent Partner program in
October, but they were again dismissed due to lack of
early 2018, the mother was charged with child endangerment
for her care of Ja.B. preceding removal. She pled guilty. The
district court entered a no-contact order between the mother
and the children. It was later modified to permit supervised
visitation between the children and mother.
the juvenile court held a permanency and termination hearing.
Both parents failed to attend due to "sickness."
next month, the mother's probation was revoked because
she missed two appointments with her probation officer and
tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana.
October, the juvenile court terminated both parents'
rights. Both parents appealed. This court reversed both
terminations on procedural grounds. See In re J.B.,
No. 18-1807, 2018 WL 6706266, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 19,
2018) (concluding "the juvenile court abused its
discretion in failing to continue the combined permanency and
termination hearing and proceeding to terminate the
parents' parental rights").
remand, the mother moved for the presiding judge to recuse.
The mother reasoned that because the judge presided over the
first termination hearing and issued an order terminating her
parental rights, the judge could not be impartial as the case
proceeded forward. The juvenile court denied the motion.
juvenile court scheduled a permanency and termination hearing
for January 23, 2019. On the day before the hearing, the
mother moved for a continuance. She argued she had received
insufficient notice of the hearing. The mother did not appear
at the hearing, but her attorney did. Her attorney advised
the court that the mother had transportation issues and
concerns regarding road conditions.
the court granted the continuance and rescheduled the hearing
for February. Later, the hearing was again rescheduled for
March 19-the day prior to the rescheduled hearing-the State
moved to amend the petition to correctly cite one of the
statutory grounds for termination with respect to
Ja.B. At the termination hearing, the
mother's counsel objected to the amendment. Counsel
argued the mother is entitled to notice of the grounds for
termination at least seven days prior to the hearing. The
court granted the motion to amend.
mother did not appear for the March 20 termination hearing.
The mother's counsel moved for a continuance based on the
mother's absence. Counsel advised the court that the
mother had planned on attending and he did not know why she
was absent. He further advised the court that he had received
no answer to his text messages and calls to the mother from