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In re N.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF N.R., Minor Child, B.P., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

          A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.

          Susan R. Stockdale, West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Magdalena B. Reese, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court order terminating her parental rights. She claims the child could have been returned to her care at the time of the hearing and, alternatively, requests an additional six months to reunite with the child. We affirm.

         We review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 773 (Iowa 2012). "There must be clear and convincing evidence of the grounds for termination of parental rights." In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). There is clear and convincing evidence where there are "no serious or substantial doubts as to the correctness [of] conclusions of law drawn from the evidence." In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010) (citation omitted). The paramount concern in termination proceedings is the best interest of the child. In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006).

         B.P. is the mother of N.R., born in 2014. S.R. is the mother's long-time paramour and biological father of N.R.; J.U., the mother's husband, is the legal father of the child. J.U. has not been a part of the child's life and did not participate at any point in the proceedings. The mother's rights to two other children were terminated in 2010, due in part to substance-abuse problems.

         In December 2017, the mother was reported to the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) for using methamphetamine. The child had been staying with the paternal grandmother since July due to the parents' lack of housing. In January 2018, the mother consented to the removal of the child when her drug use resulted in the revocation of her probation and incarceration. The child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) on March 23. In April, the child was placed in a paternal uncle's home.

         The mother has a twenty-year history of methamphetamine use, with a sober period of several years including the time period when she was pregnant with the child. She admitted to relapsing in early 2017. Despite the removal of the child and revocation of her probation in the beginning of 2018, the mother did not seek treatment until May 31, when she entered an inpatient treatment program following three months in jail. She struggled with the schedule and rules of the residential program and left in July. She successfully continued her treatment on an outpatient basis; at the time of termination the mother had been sober for nearly one year. However, the juvenile court noted she was living with the biological father, with whom she had used drugs in the past. Both parents were members of a Facebook group depicting drug use, which they claimed was motivation to stay sober.

         The mother did not reliably attend visitation until she entered treatment. Visitation remained supervised through the termination hearing, in part due to the parents' defensiveness and raised voices in response to any changes or information requests. The mother did not consistently call the child to maintain contact outside visitation hours. When the child was hospitalized three days in September 2018 for surgery, the mother only visited when the father was available to visit-during the surgery itself and approximately one hour of the following two days while the child was in recovery. She did not follow through with additional supervised time offered by the child's guardian and turned down the chance to spend Christmas with the child at the guardian's home.

         The child began individual therapy in mid-June; the child's therapist also conducted family sessions with the parents and child. The child was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder with anxiety. The therapist and DHS recommended individual therapy for the parents, but they did not consistently comply with the recommendation until November.[1] In addition to the child's and family therapy, the parents began couple's therapy to develop their relationship and parenting abilities. The mother attended mental-health sessions while in substance-abuse treatment. The child's therapist was concerned by family therapy incidents where the father would raise ...

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