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In re R.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF R.S., Minor Child, J.F., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Fremont County, Eric J. Nelson, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Vicki R. Danley, Sidney, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Katherine Murphy of Kate Murphy Law, PLC, Glenwood, for appellee father. Jaclyn Tackett of Tackett Law Offices, Glenwood, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Greer, J J.

          GREER, JUDGE.

         The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights to her child, R.S., under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2019). On appeal, the mother argues: (1) termination is not required because the child was in the father's care, (2) termination is not in the child's best interests, (3) the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to provide appropriate services, and (4) the exception in Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(a) should apply since the father has legal custody. On our de novo review and for the reasons explained below, we affirm the juvenile court's termination of the mother's parental rights.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to R.S., born January 2014. Prior to involvement by DHS, R.S.'s mother and father lived separately and had joint legal custody and shared physical care of R.S.

         On November 16, 2017, DHS received a report of unsafe conditions in the home R.S. shared with the mother and the mother's paramour. The report indicated that the mother and the paramour appeared to be significantly impaired by unknown substances, the home was dirty, there was moldy food on the floor, and the furnace pilot light was open to access by three-year-old R.S. R.S. was removed from the mother's care that day and placed with his father and stepmother. The next day, a DHS worker reported the mother admitted to recently abusing her prescriptions for Xanax and Adderall and using marijuana and methamphetamine.

         On December 4, 2017, R.S. underwent a hair stat test, which was positive for methamphetamine. The mother was charged with and later pled guilty to child endangerment related to her care of R.S., and she was sentenced to probation. On December 11, 2018, the mother was arrested for violation of her earlier probation, and she remained in jail at the time of the termination hearing.

         According to a report from DHS, the mother admitted to using methamphetamine-while sometimes also abusing Xanax-in February, March, August, and December 2018. Since R.S.'s removal, the mother has successfully completed mental-health and substance-abuse evaluations, unsuccessfully attempted outpatient treatment, successfully completed inpatient and halfway treatment, and again unsuccessfully attempted outpatient treatment. At the time of the termination hearing, the mother was incarcerated but hoped to participate in a drug court program, which requires treatment in inpatient, halfway, and outpatient settings over eighteen to twenty-four months.

         The State petitioned to terminate the mother's parental rights, which proceeded to a hearing on February 27, 2019.[1] On April 29, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights under Iowa Code section ...


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