IN THE INTEREST OF J.N., Minor Child, D.K., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District court for Johnson County, Jason A.
Burns, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
Schroeder, Iowa City, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
D. Johnson of Jacobsen, Johnson, & Wiezorek, P.L.C.,
Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
2019, the juvenile court terminated D.K.'s parental
rights to J.N., her youngest child born in 2017, under Iowa
Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2019). The mother appeals the
order, asserting that the State failed to prove the ground
for termination and that termination is not in the
child's best interests. She also contends the juvenile
court should have granted her another six months to work
toward reunification. Our review is de novo. See In re
L.T., 924 N.W.2d 521, 526 (Iowa 2019).
Iowa Code chapter 232, parental rights may be terminated if:
(1) a "ground for termination under section 232.116(1)
has been established" by clear and convincing evidence,
(2) "the best-interest framework as laid out in section
232.116(2) supports the termination of parental rights,
" and (3) none of the "exceptions in section
232.116(3) apply to preclude termination of parental
rights." In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73
(Iowa 2018). The juvenile court can also defer
termination of parental rights if "specific factors,
conditions, or expected behavioral changes" lead the
court to "determin[e] that the need for removal of the
child from the child's home will no longer exist at the
end of [an] additional six-month period." Iowa Code
§ 232.104(2)(b). In determining whether termination of
parental rights is in a child's best interests, we give
"primary consideration to the child's safety, to the
best placement for furthering the long-term nurturing and
growth of the child, and to the physical, mental, and
emotional condition and needs of the child."
Id. § 232.116(2).
parent does not have an unlimited amount of time in which to
correct his or her deficiencies." In re
H.L.B.R., 567 N.W.2d 675, 677 (Iowa Ct. App. 1997). The
"legislature has carefully constructed a time frame to
provide a balance between the parent's efforts and the
child's long-term best interests." In re
D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010). After statutory
timelines have run, the children's best interests are
promoted by termination. See In re S.N., 500 N.W.2d
32, 35 (Iowa 1993). Simply put, children are not equipped
with pause buttons, and they cannot wait indefinitely for
stable parents. See In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 112
(Iowa 2014) (noting children must not be deprived permanency
on the hope that someday the parent will be able to provide a
stable home); D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 707.
Code section 232.116(1)(h) allows the court to terminate
parental rights if a child (1) is three years old or younger,
(2) has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance
(CINA), (3) has been out of the parent's custody for at
least six of the last twelve months and any trial period at
home has been less than thirty days, and (4) cannot be
returned to the parent at present without continued risk of
adjudicatory harm. The mother does not dispute the State
proved the first three elements; indeed, those elements are
clear from the record. Rather, she challenges only the
element that the children cannot be returned to her at
present. See id. § 232.116(1)(h)(4). Upon our
de novo review, we find the State proved that element of
paragraph (h) with clear and convincing evidence.
juvenile court noted in its July 2019 ruling, the mother has
a history of involvement with the Iowa Department of Human
Over the last two years, [the mother] has not been able to
demonstrate stability or sobriety. Just prior to the birth of
[her youngest child] . . ., a hair test was done on [the
mother] by DHS. This test showed that she was positive for .
. . methamphetamine.
child was removed from the mother's care in August 2018
after the child and his older siblings-not at issue-were left
unsupervised and the mother could not be contacted. The child
had been in a dirty diaper for more than twenty-four hours,
and all the children were outside and dressed
inappropriately. After removal, the child's hair was
tested and found positive for ...