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In re N.M.-R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF N.M.-R., Minor Child, K.M.-R., Mother, Appellant.

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

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

          Emma Shimanovsky of Iowa Legal Aid, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Julie Gunderson Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MAY, JUDGE.

         The juvenile court terminated a mother's parental rights to her child, N.M.-R. On appeal, the mother contends (1) the State failed to prove grounds for termination, (2) termination was not in the child's best interest, and (3) the State failed to provide reasonable efforts toward reunification. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         N.M.-R. was born in June 2017.[1] In January 2018, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) intervened because of reports the mother was not appropriately supervising or caring for the child. DHS learned the mother had left the child unattended and placed the child in dangerous situations. The mother also fed the child foods that were not appropriate for her age. For example, when the mother ran out of formula, she gave the child condensed milk. She also gave the child chicken, pop, tea, sticky candy, hard candy, and more when the child was only six months old.

         DHS responded by providing safety services, including the implementation of a safety plan. But still the mother struggled to provide adequate care and supervision. For example, she continued to pull the child off the floor by her arm. She failed to properly hold the child on her lap. And she continued using marijuana while caring for N.M.-R. In an affidavit supporting removal, a social worker opined the mother "lack[ed] insight into how she [was] impaired after smoking marijuana when providing supervision to her young child."

         In February 2018, the mother was arrested for stealing from a store.[2] N.M.-R. was with her at the time. DHS removed N.M.-R. and placed her in foster care.

         Throughout this case, the mother struggled with mental-health and substance-abuse issues. In April 2018, she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, mild intellectual disability, and a moderate cannabis-use disorder. She completed substance-abuse evaluations, but she was not consistent in pursuing treatment. Between April 2018 and March 2019, the mother tested positive for marijuana seven times. In the first three months of 2019, she "no showed" for drug testing on six occasions.

         The State filed for termination in January 2019. A termination hearing was scheduled for March.

         In February, the mother filed a motion requesting a hearing on the State's reasonable efforts. The motion also asked for the termination hearing to be postponed. Following the reasonable-efforts hearing, the juvenile court found reasonable efforts toward reunification had been made. The juvenile court also declined to postpone the termination hearing.

         A termination hearing was held on March 28. Ultimately, the juvenile court entered an order terminating the ...


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