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In re A.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 18, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.H., T.S., and T.S., Minor Children, L.T., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mitchell County, Karen Kaufman Salic, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to three minor children.

          William P. Baresel of Prichard Law Office, PC, Charles City, for appellant mother.

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

          Patrick James Rourick of Patrick J. Rourick Law Office, Saint Ansgar, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Bower, C.J., and May and Greer, JJ.

          GREER, Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to three minor children under Iowa Code chapter 232 (2019) arguing an exception to termination applies because of her close relationship with the children. Because of the mother's many issues negatively impacting the welfare of these children, we affirm the termination of her parental rights.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         L.T. is the mother of Ti.S., Tr.S., and A.H., born in 2008, 2010, and 2015, respectively.[1] Beginning in 2015, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) investigated this family for allegations of physical abuse, lack of sufficient food, lack of supervision, and other parenting deficiencies. Another adequate supervision concern arose in August 2017 upon reports that Ti.S. and Tr.S. were playing on the roof of the home wearing only diapers. DHS offered voluntary services, and the mother made minimal progress. Those scant efforts led to a child in need of assistance (CINA) adjudication for all three children in May 2018.

         While working with the family, several more concerns arose. DHS learned the children were left upstairs during the summer without fans or air conditioning and they could not use the locked bathroom without permission. The upstairs of the home was dirty, smelled of urine, and there was feces smeared on the walls. Food was locked up in the home, and the children could not have snacks. A.H. was left in his crib or stroller most of the time, and Tr.S. took care of A.H. if he woke up overnight. The parents spent a lot of time in their bedroom playing video games and ignoring the children. The parents threatened the children that they would be taken away if they talked to school personnel or DHS. To make matters worse, deficient parenting skills lead to developmental delays in these children.

         After the court adjudicated the children CINA, Ti.S. was removed from the home on May 31 when the mother reported she could no longer manage the child's behaviors. Ti.S. was placed in foster care, and the court ordered the mother to participate in services and work with DHS. Admittedly, the mother's previous involvement with DHS as a child clouded her progress. She was hostile toward service providers, quick to point fingers at others, and unwilling to engage meaningfully in services. Because of the mother's lack of follow-through with services, the younger two children transferred to foster care from the home after the dispositional hearing on September 20. Even then, the mother refused to allow DHS workers inside the home to retrieve the children. When she brought them outside, A.H. smelled strongly of urine and Tr.S. acted excited to be going into foster care.

         At first, the children exhibited minor behavioral issues and struggled with food hoarding and overeating in their foster placements. The juvenile court noted this "raises a tremendous amount of concerns about how [the parents] fed, or didn't feed, these children." Other unsettling behaviors of these children became apparent. While in foster care, Tr.S. showed pictures of his penis to peers and discussed oral sex, jeopardizing his foster placement because of protective concerns for the other children in the home. After Tr.S. began sexually acting out, concerns arose that he and Ti.S. had to watch pornographic videos and sex acts between the mother and A.H.'s father. Over time, the children all began showing improvements in their behaviors because of the structure and security of their foster placements.

         To address the parenting deficiencies, DHS offered services.[2] The mother did not actively engage. Instead, the mother disparaged the foster parents, DHS workers, FSRP workers, and school personnel, sometimes in front of the children. She and A.H.'s father fabricated allegations about the DHS and FSRP workers on the case, which the juvenile court described as "absurd-bordering on delusional."[3] Because of the mother's behavior, one of the foster families began recording their interactions with her. The mother's actions caused issues with the children's foster placements, leading to the children cycling through placements, being ...


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