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In re D.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 18, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.B., A.B., and B.B., Minor Children, A.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jackson County, Mark R. Fowler, Judge.

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

          Elizabeth A. Srp of Srp Law, PLC, Clinton, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Joshua Reicks of Schoenthaler, Bartlett, Kahler & Reicks, Maquoketa, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., Schumacher, J., and Vogel, S.J. [*]

          SCHUMACHER, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her three daughters, D.B., born in 2010, and B.B. and A.B., both born in 2013.[1] The district court found, and we concur, that the grounds for termination were proven. We further find the record does not support that an extension of time for reunification efforts is warranted and termination is in the best interest of the children. We therefore affirm.

         The children came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services and the district court due to methamphetamine use by their mother. The children were removed from the mother's custody on June 29, 2018, after the mother and two of the children tested positive for methamphetamine. Throughout the life of the case, the children have remained in relative care. There has not been a trial home placement.

         Following the children's removal, the mother struggled to make any progress toward reunification. While she completed outpatient treatment in February 2019, she tested positive for methamphetamine shortly thereafter and did not reengage in treatment.

         The record reflects the mother has limited financial resources. She asserts that such is a barrier to reunification and is the basis for her failure to participate in routine drug screens and consistent visitation. The district court acknowledged the mother's financial struggles but noted that such were not the issues that brought the children under the jurisdiction of the court. We agree.

         The mother is unemployed. Her date of last employment was in approximately 2015. The mother applied for but was denied disability income. She does, however, receive housing assistance, utility assistance, and food assistance. In spite of the utility assistance, the mother lived for months without electricity or water. She lost her driver's license for non-payment of child support after the children's removal. Her car was impounded when she deserted the vehicle after running out of gas on the way to a scheduled visit with her children, despite the receipt of gas cards from the department. The department offered transportation to the drug-testing site, which was refused by the mother. The department also transported the children for visitation to a location closer to the mother to ease transportation issues. Despite such, the mother frequently missed her scheduled visits. A cell phone with 350 minutes per month, two gigabytes of data per month, and unlimited texting capability was also provided to the mother. Given the same, we find the mother's argument that her financial situation rendered her unable to participate in drug testing and consistently participate in visitation to be lacking.

         The mother also has medical issues. She alleges, like her financial condition, such medical issues serve as a barrier to participation in drug testing and regular visitation. At the termination hearing, she testified that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, agoraphobia, multiple sclerosis, and that she has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She, however, denies that she has a substance-abuse issue despite continuing to test positive for methamphetamine throughout the case. Since her daughters were removed from her custody, a period of over fifteen months, the mother was positive for methamphetamine at every hair stat test. She was often a no-call/no-show at drug testing and visits with her children. The record is void of any evidence that her existing medical conditions prohibit her from completing case plan recommendations given the reasonable efforts provided by the department.

         Despite ongoing positive methamphetamine tests, the mother testified at the termination hearing that she had not used methamphetamine for eighteen months to two years. The mother has been unable to acknowledge the issue of her substance abuse, much less address the same. Consequently, the issue of mother's ...


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