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In re G.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF G.B., Minor Child, C.A., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

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

          Melody J. Butz of Butz Law Offices, PC, Center Point, for appellant mother.

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

          Kristin L. Denniger, Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and May, JJ.

          Mullins, Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her minor child. She argues: (1) termination is not in the child's best interests, (2) the State failed to make reasonable efforts at reunification, and (3) she should have been given additional time for reunification.[1]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The child in interest was born in 2014.[2] About a year later, the mother gave birth to the child's half-sister. The mother gave birth to a third child in 2017; the child died as a result of sudden infant death syndrome. The mother has not attended any counseling in relation to the loss of her third child. Both living children were previously adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) in 2016 due to physical abuse of the child in interest by his half-sibling's father. The child again came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in early May 2018 upon concerns for physical abuse; the child exhibited bruising to his buttocks and lower back. The child reported his mother's boyfriend, Steven, caused the bruising.[3] The mother and Steven confirmed Steven had spanked the child but denied it caused bruising. The record indicates the mother was present when the spanking occurred.

         The mother agreed to a safety plan under which she would prohibit contact between Steven and her children. However, the mother continued to allow Steven to be around the children. The State applied for temporary removal, which was granted in late May. The child was placed in the custody of DHS, and his half-sister was placed with her father. DHS established a case plan recommending the mother participate in mental-health services and obtain education on discipline and safe supervision. In July, the court formally confirmed removal and adjudicated the child CINA upon the stipulation of the parties.

         At the time of adjudication, the court ordered preparation of a social-history report. The report noted the mother makes poor relationship decisions, puts men before her children, and did not believe Steven harmed the child. A dispositional hearing was held in August, at which time the mother continued to live with Steven and continued to refuse to acknowledge Steven harmed the child. The mother continued to live with Steven until late November, when he advised the mother she had to leave. Through January 2019, the mother's visitation with the child was sporadic. The mother has never progressed beyond fully-supervised visitation. She also failed to take any meaningful steps to address her mental-health issues. In its January permanency order, the juvenile court directed the State to initiate termination proceedings. In its order, the court noted "no party has requested additional services or assistance except mother is asking for a family team meeting."[4]

         The mother did not begin consistently attending visitations until around the time the permanency goal was modified to termination. The State filed its petition in February. The mother did not begin taking steps to address her mental-health issues until late March. The mother also continued to decline to participate in parenting education until shortly before the termination hearing. The mother obtained her own housing in April. Due to the contents of the home DHS observed during a visit, it was apparent a man was living in the home with the mother. The mother denied a man was living with her or that she had a boyfriend. However, the mother's mental-health records note the mother reported she had a boyfriend.

         A termination hearing was held in April. The record indicates the day before the hearing, the mother filed a request for services asking that she be allowed a trial home placement, in-home visitation, and expanded visitation with less supervision.[5] Following a hearing, the court terminated the mother's ...


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