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In re F.P.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 23, 2019

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

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights.

          Marshall W. Orsini of Law Offices of Marshall W. Orsini, PLLC, Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          Nicole Garbis Nolan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          VOGEL, SENIOR JUDGE.

         A mother appeals a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to her daughter. We find there is sufficient evidence in the record that the child cannot be returned to the mother, termination is in the child's best interests to give the child stability, and custody of the child with her father does not militate against termination. We affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         N.P., mother, and J.G., father, are the parents of F.P., born in 2006. The mother has a long history of drug use, mental-health problems, and criminal behavior. The family became involved with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in July 2017 because the mother was using methamphetamine and stabbed a man in her apartment. The child was moved to the father's care in August. In January 2018, in separate civil proceedings, the father was granted sole legal custody and the mother was granted supervised visitation. In February 2018, the mother was arrested for domestic abuse assault against her boyfriend, B.F., who reported the mother was "off her meds and has violent tendencies." Shortly before the termination hearing, the mother married B.F., despite knowing he was a sex offender.

         On June 11, 2018, the child was adjudicated to be in need of assistance (CINA), pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and (n) (2018). The mother has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, cannabis abuse, and other stimulant abuse. The mother has been treated periodically over the years for these issues with little success.

         In a review order, filed on January 23, 2019, the juvenile court determined the mother would have not visitation "until such time as she is engaged in mental health therapy, she has completed a full psychological evaluation, she has provided a clean drug screen, and she has met with [the child's] therapist without [the child] present." In the early morning of January 29, 2019, after the father had gone to work, the mother banged on the windows and doors of the father's home, wanting to talk to the child. The police were called, and the child's grandmother was able to transport her to school. Later in the day, the mother also caused a scene at the child's school. She appeared to be under the influence of a mood-altering substance and was eventually escorted off the premises by the police. Both events caused more trauma to the child, resulting in the court entering an order prohibiting the mother from having contact with the child.

         On May 2, the State filed a petition seeking to terminate the mother's parental rights. The juvenile court terminated her rights under section 232.116(1)(f) (2019).[1] The court found there was clear and convincing evidence to show the child "cannot be safe physically and emotionally in her Mother's custody. Even part-time custody as part of a divorce decree." The court found termination was in the child's best interests. The court stated, the mother "just hasn't been able to make the changes or rise to the level of being a safe and minimally adequate parent for [the child] who can interact with her in a healthy and safe and consistent manner." The court also found none of the exceptions in section 232.116(3) applied. The mother now appeals.

         II. ...


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