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In re D.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2020

IN THE INTEREST OF D.B., Minor Child, N.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her daughter.

          Patrick Bigsby of State Public Defender, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Katherine Eastvold, North Liberty, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.

          Schumacher, Judge.

         D.B. was born in September 2018. She was removed from parental custody when she was approximately ten days old and placed in foster care, where she has remained throughout the life of this case. There has not been a trial period at home. The initial removal occurred when the mother's boyfriend was arrested for domestic violence in the presence of baby D.B. after he struck the mother, pulled her hair, knocked her to the ground, and stabbed her in the forearm. At the time of this removal, concerns existed regarding the presence of rats, cockroaches, and black mold in the home where the mother was staying with the baby. The mother admitted to relapsing on cocaine and alcohol.

         The mother, age thirty-one years at the time of the termination hearing, has an extensive history of substance-abuse and mental-health issues. In her appeal, the mother argues that the trial court erred by (1) finding that reasonable efforts were made to reunify D.B. with her mother, and (2) failing to grant the mother a six-month extension to work toward reunification.

         The district court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) and (l) (2019).[1] On our independent review of the record, we affirm termination of the mother's parental rights.[2] We find the record reflects that the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) made reasonable efforts to reunify D.B. with her mother during the nearly one-year period from the child's removal to the date of the termination hearing. We further find that an additional six months' time would be insufficient to resolve the mother's substance-abuse and mental-health issues.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Since birth, D.B. has been the subject of three separate founded child-abuse reports completed by DHS. The first founded child-abuse report concerned the events that led to the initial removal of D.B. from parental custody. A second founded child-abuse report was completed when the mother was arrested for assault while displaying a deadly weapon thirteen days after her daughter's birth. At the time of the assault, the mother was brandishing a switchblade. The third founded child-abuse report was due to the purchase of crack cocaine by the mother, providing the baby with inadequate shelter, and the mother assaulting her boyfriend in D.B.'s presence.

         The mother has been unable to stay sober. When not incarcerated, she drinks daily, approximately seven alcoholic drinks per day. The mother admits that she is a danger to herself and others when intoxicated. We first recognize that, while the mother is of relatively young age, the record reflects sixty-two alcohol or drug related convictions since 2006, including three separate convictions for public intoxication while she was pregnant with D.B. The mother tested positive for cocaine twice during her pregnancy with D.B., in June and August 2018. D.B., however, did not test positive at birth. The mother also suffers from mental-health issues, including schizoaffective disorder, depression, and anxiety. The mother was a victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a child.

         D.B. was adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance on September 26, 2018. The mother failed to complete a mental-health evaluation. After the removal and while on probation for domestic violence, she was court ordered to a halfway house as part of her criminal proceedings. She absconded from that court-ordered facility and was arrested two days later on a new theft charge for stealing alcohol. At the time of the termination hearing, her probation for the ...


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