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In re R.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 23, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF R.H., Minor Child, C.H., Mother, Appellant.

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

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

          Kyle J. McGinn of McGinn, Springer & Noethe, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Sara Benson of Benson Law, P.C., Council Bluffs, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         The mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her child, R.H.[1]She disputes some of the statutory grounds relied upon by the juvenile court, maintains termination is not in the child's best interests, argues she should be given more time to work toward reunification, and challenges the juvenile court's denial of her request to modify disposition to place R.H. in the maternal grandmother's care.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         R.H. tested positive for cannabinoids, methamphetamine, and amphetamines at his birth in July 2018. The mother admitted to using both marijuana and methamphetamine during her pregnancy, and R.H. was immediately removed from her care the day after birth. At that time, he was placed in the custody of the maternal grandmother. In the child-in-need-of-assistance proceedings, the court required the mother to undergo substance-abuse evaluation and treatment.

         In early October, the mother began what was to be a six-week residential substance-abuse treatment program. Following a dispositional hearing soon thereafter, the court adopted a permanency goal of R.H. joining the mother at the treatment facility after she completed the first thirty days. The court ordered that R.H. would "be placed in the care, custody, and control of his mother" subject to the supervision of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and would "remain in her care unless she leaves treatment prior to being successfully discharged." In the event the mother left treatment prior to successfully completing it, the custody of R.H. would revert back to DHS.

         R.H. joined the mother at the residential treatment facility on October 30. Two weeks later, the social worker for the family met with the mother to discuss her lack of engagement in treatment. The mother maintained her several positive sweat-patch tests were the result of being around her boyfriend and the maternal grandmother while they used methamphetamine-not her own use. In response, the mother was told the grandmother would not be allowed back in the residential treatment center for visits until the grandmother proved her sobriety. The mother became upset, told the social worker to place R.H. in foster care, and left treatment.

         R.H. was placed in foster care that day, November 13, and remained there until he was placed in the home of his maternal aunt on December 8. R.H. continued to live with this maternal aunt at the time of the termination hearing.

         When R.H. was placed in foster care, the maternal grandmother contacted DHS to ask that R.H. be returned to her custody. The social worker informed her she needed to complete a drug test to establish her sobriety because the mother reported the grandmother was using methamphetamine. The grandmother, though upset, stated she would complete a ...


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