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In re P.N.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF P.N., Minor Child, A.C., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Charles D. Fagan, District Associate Judge.

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

          Maura C. Goaley, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender Office, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem and attorney 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 and that termination is in the child's best interests. She also contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts to return the child to her care. We review these claims de novo. See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).

         The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in March 2018 when the mother drank alcohol and received a citation for public intoxication while caring for the child. The mother has a long history of substance abuse, including alcohol and methamphetamine. She also has mental health issues. A psychological evaluation diagnosed the mother as having severe alcohol and stimulant use disorders, as well as moderate opioid and sedative use disorders. Based on the harm presented by the mother's use of drugs and alcohol and her failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising the child, the juvenile court adjudicated the child to be in need of assistance (CINA) in August 2018.

         Efforts made to preserve the family were ultimately unsuccessful. Although the mother spent over four months in inpatient treatment to address her substance use, she relapsed one month after completing the program and drove with the child while under the influence of methamphetamine and alcohol. The juvenile court removed the child from the mother's care as a result. Rather than addressing her substance use, the mother admitted to using methamphetamine, alcohol, and Xanax on a daily basis. As a result, the case goal changed from reunification to termination of parental rights. Following a hearing on the State's petition to terminate parental rights, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (h), and (l) (2019).

         The mother contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination. Although the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights on three grounds, we may affirm so long as clear and convincing evidence supports one of these grounds. See In re T.S., 868 N.W.2d 425, 435 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015). To terminate parental rights under section 232.116(1)(h), the State must prove the following by clear and convincing evidence:

(1) The child is three years of age or younger.
(2) The child has been adjudicated [CINA] pursuant to section 232.96.
(3) The child has been removed from the physical custody of the child's parents for at least six months of the last twelve months, or for the last six consecutive months and any ...

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