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In re M.E.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF M.E., Minor Child, S.T., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda Belcher, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court decision terminating her parental rights.

          Shireen L. Carter of Shireen Carter Law Office, PLC, Norwalk, for appellant mother.

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

          Lynn Vogan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Greer, P.J., Schumacher, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          DANILSON, SENIOR JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court decision terminating her parental rights. The mother does not challenge the statutory grounds for termination and we find termination of the mother's parental rights is in the child's best interests. We affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         S.T., mother, and D.E., father, are the parents of M.E., born in 2017. The child was removed from the parents' care on December 20, 2017, based on the parents' unresolved mental-health issues, domestic violence, substance abuse, and unstable living arrangements. The child was placed in foster care. At the time of the removal, the mother had already been involved in services for four years in regard to two older children, who were previously removed from her care.[1] She told social workers that she and the father had been smoking marijuana.

         On January 30, 2018, the child was adjudicated to be in need of assistance (CINA), under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2017). The court noted the mother was homeless and "has struggled with visits including not coming prepared, coming late, or not attending at all." In the dispositional order, filed on March 20, the juvenile court stated the mother "has participated in mental health therapy, though not consistently," and had not participated in any treatment for substance abuse. At that time the child was moved to the home of a family friend who was willing to adopt the child.

         In a September 11 review order, the court stated the mother was "minimally engaged in services." The court found the mother was attending individual therapy but "has not engaged in domestic violence or substance abuse services as recommended." In November, the mother's visits were reduced to once per week due to her inconsistent attendance.

         On November 16, the State filed a petition seeking termination of the parents' rights. At the termination hearing, the mother testified the child could not be returned to her care at that time. She stated she did not have stable housing. The mother had not attended mental-health therapy for five or six months. She stated she was still in a relationship with the father, although he had not yet addressed the issue of domestic violence.

         The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights under section 232.116(1)(e), (g), and (h) (2018).[2] The court found termination of the mother's parental ...


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