IN THE INTEREST OF A.C., Minor Child, T.K., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda
Belcher, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
H. Ginkens of Ginkens Law Firm, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until
withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General,
for appellee State.
ConGarry Williams of the State Public Defender Office, Des
Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.
appeal of an order terminating parental rights, a mother
challenges the statutory ground for termination and the
finding that termination is in the child's best
interests. She also seeks to avoid termination based on one
of the grounds set forth in Iowa Code section 232.116(3)
(2018). We review these claims de novo. See In re
A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).
first determine whether the State proved the ground for
terminating the mother's parental rights. See
id. at 472-73. The evidence establishes the first three
requirements for termination under section 232.116(1)(f),
which relate to the child's age, a
child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) adjudication, and the
child's removal from the parent's care. The question
is whether the State proved that returning the child to the
parent at the time of the termination hearing would expose
the child to a harm that would lead to a new CINA
adjudication. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4)
(requiring "clear and convincing evidence that at the
present time the child cannot be returned to the custody of
the child's parents as provided in section
232.102"); In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707
(Iowa 2010) (interpreting the term "at the present
time" to mean to mean "at the time of the
termination hearing"); In re M.S., 889 N.W.2d
675, 680 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (observing that a child cannot
be returned to the custody of the parent under section
232.102 if doing so would exposed the child to any harm
amounting to a new CINA adjudication). Clear and convincing
evidence shows the child could not be returned to the
mother's care at the time of the termination hearing
because the mother was in jail for violating her probation by
using marijuana and methamphetamine and would remain there
awaiting placement in a residential treatment facility.
See In re S.J., 620 N.W.2d 522, 526 (Iowa Ct. App.
2000) (noting immediate reunification between parent and
child is impossible when the parent remains incarcerated at
the time of the termination hearing).
found clear and convincing evidence to terminate under
section 232.116(1)(f), we must next determine whether
termination is in the child's best interests. See
A.S., 906 N.W.2d at 473. Considering "the
child's safety," "the best placement for
furthering the long-term nurturing and growth of the
child," and "the physical, mental, and emotional
condition and needs of the child," In re P.L.,
778 N.W.2d 33, 37 (Iowa 2010) (quoting Iowa Code §
232.116(2)), we agree that termination is in the child's
best interest. The substance-use issues that led to the CINA
adjudication continued to the time of termination. Although
the mother failed to maintain sobriety, she minimized her
substance use and denied needing inpatient treatment.
we consider whether any of the circumstances listed in
section 232.116(3) applies and, if so, whether it weighs
against terminating parental rights. See A.S., 906
N.W.2d at 473. The mother argues section 232.116(3)(a)
applies because the child is in the legal custody of a
relative. But that relative strongly opposes a guardianship
or reunification and declined to serve as guardian if the
court pursued that alternative. This section does not weigh
against termination. And the two other grounds the mother
urges do not apply; the child is not over ten years old, and
we need not consider any objection the child may have to
termination. See Iowa Code § 232.116(3)(b). Nor
is there evidence that termination of the mother's
parental rights would harm the child based on the closeness
of their relationship. See id. § 232.116(3)(c).
considered the mother's arguments on appeal and found
them to lack merit, we affirm the termination ...