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In re C.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2020

IN THE INTEREST OF C.K. and M.K., Minor Children, R.K., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Korie Shippee, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two minor children under Iowa Code chapter 232 (2019).

          Martha L. Cox, Bettendorf, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ellen Ramsey-Kacena, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Rebecca C. Sharpe of Aitken, Aitken & Sharpe, P.C., Bettendorf, 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 two minor children under Iowa Code chapter 232 (2019).[1] She does not contest the grounds for termination but claims two exceptions to termination apply: (1) the children are placed with relatives and (2) termination would harm the children based on their closeness with the mother. The mother requests a guardianship instead of termination. We decline to apply the permissive exceptions to termination, reject the mother's request for a guardianship, and affirm the termination order.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         R.K. is the mother of C.K. and M.K., born in 2012 and 2014, respectively. The mother also has three older children who were unaffected by the juvenile court's termination order: one who was an adult during these proceedings and two who by agreement of the parties are in a guardianship with the maternal grandparents.

         In March 2018, the family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) because of concerns the parents were using methamphetamine, the family was homeless, and the children had poor attendance at school. The children later tested positive for methamphetamine. This is the fourth time since 2005 that the parents have been involved with DHS for substance-abuse-related concerns.

         DHS removed the children from the parents' custody on April 17. C.K., M.K., and two of their older siblings were first placed with the maternal grandparents. The grandparents could not care for all four children, so the paternal great aunt and uncle offered to care for C.K. and M.K., and the children have remained in their care throughout the entirety of these proceedings.

         The children were adjudicated in need of assistance on June 6. After a permanency hearing in April 2019, the juvenile court directed the State to proceed with termination. The State filed the termination petition in July.

         At the time of the termination hearing in October, the children had been living with their great aunt and uncle for almost eighteen months. Despite being offered many services throughout this case, the mother continued to struggle with substance-abuse and mental-health issues and she had not found a job or stable housing. The mother did not dispute that grounds existed to terminate her rights. Instead, she asked the court to apply an exception to termination and to establish a guardianship with the children's great aunt ...


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