In re E.H., 22-1153

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtVAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE
PartiesIN THE INTEREST OF E.H. and G.F., Minor Children, S.J., Mother, Appellant.
Docket Number22-1153
Decision Date17 November 2022

IN THE INTEREST OF E.H. and G.F., Minor Children, S.J., Mother, Appellant.

No. 22-1153

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 17, 2022


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Rose Anne Mefford, District Associate Judge.

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

Lynnette M. Lindgren of Faulkner, Broerman &Lindgren, Oskaloosa, for appellant mother.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

Patrick Joseph Mahaffey of Mahaffey Law Office, Montezuma, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Greer and Schumacher, JJ.

1

VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to two children, born in 2007 and 2013. She contends (1) the State failed to prove the children "could not be returned to [her] custody at the time of the termination hearing"; (2) the department of health and human services failed to make "reasonable efforts to reunify [her] with her child[ren]"; and (3) termination was not in the children's best interests "due to the closeness of the parent-child relationship" and because a guardianship "would allow the child[ren] to be placed in a safe and stable environment while also preserving the child[ren]'s close bond with [her]."

The district court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to two statutory grounds. Because she only challenges one of the grounds, we could affirm on the other. See In re T.S., 868 N.W.2d 425, 435 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015) ("When the juvenile court orders termination of parental rights on more than one statutory ground, we need only find grounds to terminate on one of the sections to affirm."). We elect to proceed to the merits of the ground she appeals, which requires proof of several elements, including proof the children cannot be returned to parental custody. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4) (2021).

The department intervened in October 2020 "due to concerns of domestic violence and methamphetamine use by" the mother. Its most recent involvement came on the heels of another case, which closed just four months earlier. The department also intervened two other times, with the first contact occurring a decade earlier, when the older child was just two-and-a-half years old and was left home alone. The mother's methamphetamine use precipitated all four interventions.

2

The State applied to have the children temporarily removed from the mother's custody. The district court granted the application. The court later adjudicated the children in need of assistance. One child was placed with her father and then with her paternal grandmother, and the other child was placed with a nonrelative and later with a paternal relative.

The mother successfully completed a drug treatment program but relapsed within a month. She attended treatment at another facility but again relapsed. Prior to the termination hearing, the department reported that the...

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