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In re D.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 25, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.S. and X.L., Minor Children, D.H., Mother, Appellant, L.L., Father of X.L., Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Kimberly Ayotte, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Teresa M. Pope of Branstad & Olson Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Nicholas Einwalter, Des Moines, for appellant father of X.L.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Paul White of Juvenile Public Defender Office, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal the juvenile court decision terminating their parental rights. Statutory grounds for termination of parental rights exist as to each parent, an extension is unwarranted, and termination is in the children's best interests. We affirm on both appeals.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         D.H. is the mother of X.L., born in 2016, and D.S., born in 2017. L.L. is X.L.'s father; J.S. is the father of D.S. The mother's rights had been terminated to another child in 2014 due to the mother's substance-abuse and mental-health issues and gaps in visitation.

         On December 29, 2016, X.L. was removed from the mother's care when the child was found with the mother in the location of a drug bust. The mother was actively using methamphetamine and marijuana. At that time, L.L. was in jail for violating a domestic abuse no-contact order prohibiting contact with the mother. On February 7, 2017, X.L. was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA). The mother participated in services and treatment, and X.L was returned to her care. D.S. remained in the mother's custody after birth. The CINA case was closed on August 21, 2018, with a safety order in place and X.L. in the mother's sole legal custody. L.L. did not participate in any services relating to domestic violence or substance abuse.

         The day after the CINA case closed, the Department of Human Services (DHS) received reports of domestic violence between the mother and L.L. in the children's presence. Unknown to DHS, the mother had relapsed in late July; L.L. was also reportedly using illegal substances. L.L. was living with the mother and the children at the time. The mother and L.L. refused to comply with DHS investigations into the domestic-abuse and substance-abuse allegations. On October 1, both children were removed from the mother's custody. Both children tested positive for methamphetamine and the older child tested positive for marijuana. The children were placed in foster care. The court adjudicated the children as CINA on November 21.

         In December, the court ordered the mother to obtain substance-abuse treatment, mental-health treatment, medication management, and domestic-violence services. The older child was placed with the paternal grandmother; the younger child continued in foster care. In February 2019, the court ordered the mother to set up therapy and child-parent psychotherapy for the older child. The mother ...


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