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In re K.N.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF K.N., Minor Child, S.C., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Peter B. Newell, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court decision terminating her parental rights.

          Mark A. Milder of Mark Milder Law Firm, Denver, for appellant mother.

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

         Elizabeth Batey of Vickers Law Office, Charles City, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Gamble, S.J. [*]

          GAMBLE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court decision terminating her parental rights. We find there is clear and convincing evidence in the record to support termination of the mother's rights and termination is in the child's best interests. We affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         S.C. is the mother of K.N., born in 2016.[1] The mother has a history of contact with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).[2] The mother has an extensive criminal history. She suffered from substance abuse related to methamphetamine and opioid addiction. She had mental-health problems including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In this instance, the family became involved with DHS after the mother was arrested for possession of methamphetamine in December 2017. The mother agreed to informally place the child in the care of a maternal aunt. She later tried to take the child back, and the child was formally removed from the mother's care on February 16, 2018.

         The child was adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance (CINA) under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(n) (2018). The juvenile court found the mother had been caring for the child while in the possession of methamphetamine and had not provided adequate care for the child. On March 29, DHS moved the child to foster care. The mother faced various criminal charges, including forgery, operating while intoxicated, possession of a controlled substance, and theft. The mother was in jail from April to August. She then entered a residential correctional facility on August 30. On September 4, she had her first supervised visit with the child in over four months. Supervised visitation went well. Although there was not a strong bond between mother and child, the child was happy during supervised visitation. The mother never progressed to unsupervised visitation.

         On February 8, 2019, the State filed a petition for termination of the parents' rights. The mother was released from the residential facility on March 25. She obtained housing and employment. She remained on probation and was subject to drug testing through the Iowa Department of Corrections. The mother complied with the drug-testing requirements of probation and had no positive drug tests. She did not, however, comply with requests for random drug testing by DHS. The mother's excuses for failing to comply with DHS requests for drug screens were not convincing. At the time of the termination hearing on May 30, the mother had started a new substance-abuse treatment program. She attended regular NA meeting and had a sponsor. However, she was not participating in individual therapy. She attended medication-management appointments but did not see the need to attend individual therapy for her significant mental-health issues. The mother testified the child could be returned to her care.

         The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights under section 232.116(1)(h) and (l) (2019).[3] The court found the child could not be returned to the mother's care "at the present time." The court noted, "[The mother] is not participating in individual mental health treatment nor is she providing requested drug testing for [DHS]." The court also stated, "Neither of the parents have shown any insight into their own dysfunctional lifestyle or how their continued use of controlled substances has impacted the lives of their children." The court determined termination of the mother's parental rights was in the child's best interests and none of the exceptions in section 232.116(3) should be applied. The mother appealed.

         II. ...


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