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In re A.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.S. and M.S., Minor Children, A.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Stephen A. Owen, District Associate Judge.

          A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two of her minor children.

          James W. Thornton of Thornton & Coy, PLLC, Ankeny, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Shannon M. Leighty of Public Defender's Office, Nevada, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Greer, JJ.

          GREER, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court's termination of her parental rights to two minor children.[1] She argues the court should have granted her motion to continue the termination hearing, and she challenges the statutory grounds for termination. On our review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         A.B. is the mother of A.S., born in 2016, and M.S., born in 2015. The children's father, C.S., has not been involved in their lives. Currently, A.B. is married to J.B. and they are the parents of Jo.B., born in 2017, who is the subject of a separate termination proceeding. A.B. has had her parental rights terminated to four other children.

         A.S. and M.S. were removed from their mother's care on November 9, 2017, because of concerns that Jo.B. was not being adequately fed and accusations that someone had physically abused M.S. During an initial assessment, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) noted additional concerns of unsanitary living conditions, mental-health issues, the children's medical issues, housing instability, income instability, and transportation issues. Since that initial removal, the children have not returned to A.B.'s care.

         On May 24, 2018, the juvenile court adjudicated A.S. and M.S. children in need of assistance (CINA). Disposition followed almost one month later, and the court adopted the recommendations in a June 2018 case plan. After the November 8 permanency hearing, the district court noted that A.B. was not participating in services or addressing the issues the DHS had identified, and it concluded that the State should proceed with termination.

         Ultimately, the State petitioned to terminate A.B.'s parental rights on December 21. The court scheduled a single termination hearing for May 2, 2019, to address parental rights as to M.S., A.S., and Jo.B. together. However, the court later scheduled another hearing as to Jo.B. when J.B.'s attorney became unavailable because of a scheduling conflict. The State also notified A.B. that the family's original DHS caseworker would not be available to testify at the May 2 hearing. On April 30, A.B. filed a motion to continue the hearing as to M.S. and A.S. to prevent duplicative testimony, to allow J.B. to have his attorney present, and to allow the original caseworker to testify. The juvenile court denied the motion after receiving oral arguments, and the case proceeded to the termination hearing.

         During the hearing, the court took judicial notice of the exhibits in the CINA case; received exhibits from the State and A.B.; and heard testimony from the current DHS caseworker, A.B., and J.B. After the close of evidence, A.B. requested an additional six months to attempt to regain custody of her ...


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