IN THE INTEREST OF J.F., Minor Child, C.F., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Mark C.
Cord III, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights.
Cody Farrens, Sioux City, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith Lamberti, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Vakulskas Joly of Vakulskas Law Firm, P.C., Sioux City,
attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Bower, C.J., and May and Greer, JJ.
mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
child, J.F., who was born in February 2018. On appeal, the
mother claims the statutory grounds authorizing termination
were not satisfied and the State failed to make reasonable
efforts towards reunification. We affirm.
review termination proceedings de novo. In re P.L.,
778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010). "We examine both the
facts and law, and we adjudicate anew those issues properly
preserved and presented." In re C.S., No.
13-1796, 2014 WL 667883, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2014).
"Although we are not bound by them, we give weight to
the trial court's findings of fact, especially when
considering credibility of witnesses." In re
C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000).
generally use a three-step analysis to review the termination
of a parent's rights. In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d
467, 472 (Iowa 2018). But when, as here, the parent's
claims only relate to one step in our analysis, we only
address that step. Here, the mother's claims relate
solely to the first step-determination of whether a ground
for termination under section 232.116(1) has been
established. Id. at 472-73.
State has the burden of proving the grounds for termination
by clear and convincing evidence." In re
H.L.B.R., 567 N.W.2d 675, 677 (Iowa Ct. App. 1997).
"When the juvenile court terminates parental rights on
more than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile
court's order on any ground we find supported by the
record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa
2012). Here, the juvenile court terminated the mother's
rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d) and (h) (2019).
We choose to focus on section 232.116(1)(h).
mother only challenges the fourth element of section
232.116(1)(h), whether J.F. could be returned to her at the
time of the termination hearing. See Iowa Code
§ 232.116(1)(h)(4); In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703,
707 (Iowa 2010) (interpreting "at the present time"
to mean at the time of the termination hearing). The juvenile
court concluded J.F. could not be safely returned. This
conclusion finds strong support in the record.
the life of this case, the mother has lacked stable housing.
See In re D.H., No. 18-1552, 2019 WL 156668, at *1
(Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2019) (finding parent's unstable
housing militated in favor of termination and collecting
cases). She jumped from location to location and town to
town. At the termination hearing, she testified she had
secured an apartment-but had only been living there about a
month. And she had not paid her complete deposit yet. Given
her long history of moving place to place after short periods
of time, we cannot say this newly-acquired apartment
constitutes stable housing.
the mother struggles both in understanding J.F.'s needs
and in accepting guidance intended to educate her about
J.F.'s needs. For example, at the termination hearing,
she requested J.F. be placed with a friend instead of
J.F.'s father. She preferred this placement because she
believed her friend would be "more than happy to allow
[her] to see [J.F.]" But J.F. ...