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In re O.O.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 25, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF O.O., Minor Child, N.D., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Stephanie Forker Parry, District Associate Judge.

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

          Jessica R. Noll of Deck Law PLC, Sioux City, for appellant mother.

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

          Marchelle M. Denker of Juvenile Law Center, Sioux City, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          DOYLE, JUDGE

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child. She contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. She also contends termination is not in the child's best interests and asks for additional time.[1] We review her claims de novo. See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).

         The juvenile court removed the child from the mother's care and adjudicated the child in need of assistance after the child went missing while in the mother's care in September 2018. The mother waited more than six hours to report the child's disappearance to police. The child was three years old at the time. Police officers who investigated the disappearances observed that the mother was extremely intoxicated.

         The mother has a history of excessive use of alcohol. While living in Minnesota, the mother was convicted of operating while intoxicated (OWI) in 2012 and had her parental rights to two older children terminated based in part on her alcohol use in 2010. Since moving to Iowa, law enforcement has responded to multiple calls involving the mother's excessive alcohol use. In February 2018, the State charged the mother with OWI, public intoxication, and child endangerment after driving a vehicle in which the child was a passenger off the road and into a ditch.

         The mother has not successfully completed substance-abuse treatment. She began inpatient treatment in November 2018 and was discharged after one month when her insurance refused to pay for additional treatment. Because her participation was limited and she minimized her use, the mother remained "at high potential to relapse due to lack of sober support and lack of insight." The mother then entered intensive outpatient treatment but only attended two groups before she stopped attending. After the State petitioned to terminate her parental rights in February 2019, the mother returned to intensive outpatient treatment, but her failure to attend again led to her discharge less than a month later.

         Following a hearing, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (e), (i) and (l). Although the juvenile court terminated parental rights on more than one ground, we need only find grounds to terminate under one of the sections cited by the juvenile court to affirm. See In re S.R., 600 N.W.2d 63, 64 (Iowa Ct. App. 1999). The juvenile court may terminate parental rights under section 232.116(1)(e) if clear and convincing evidence establishes these elements:

(1) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance pursuant to section 232.96.
(2) The child has been removed from the physical custody of the child's parents for a period of at least ...

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