In re Interest of C.B., No. 20-1640

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMULLINS, Judge.
Citation957 N.W.2d 723 (Table)
Parties In the INTEREST OF C.B., Minor Child, A.B., Mother, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 20-1640
Decision Date17 February 2021

957 N.W.2d 723 (Table)

In the INTEREST OF C.B., Minor Child,

A.B., Mother, Appellant.

No. 20-1640

Court of Appeals of Iowa.

Filed February 17, 2021


Mark D. Fisher, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

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

Julie F. Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

Considered by Bower, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

MULLINS, Judge.

The mother and child came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) shortly after the child's birth in May 2019. At the time, the mother's living arrangement was not one that she could return to with the child. Hospital staff noted concerns for the mother's ability to care for a newborn while recovering from birth and beyond. Concerns eventually arose about domestic violence between the mother and her paramour. The State sought and obtained an order for temporary removal. The child was placed in foster care, where she remained throughout the proceedings. The child was adjudicated in need of assistance upon stipulation of the parties. Due to concerns for the mother's mental functioning, the court ordered her to obtain cognitive, psychological, and psychiatric evaluations in its June dispositional order. The mother's cognitive evaluation indicated she has a moderate cognitive impairment and "shows obvious impairment in abstract thought processes including memory, judgment, reasoning and planning ahead." The cognitive evaluation report also noted the mother would have difficulty managing daily tasks and she posed a risk of "[s]elf-centered behavior" and "the inability to consider the needs of others."

By October, DHS was open to allowing the mother semi-supervised visits in order to assess whether she could provide appropriate care for extended periods of time. The court ordered the level of supervision to be in the discretion of DHS and the guardian ad litem, and the mother progressed to semi-supervised visits in the community, which involved the mother having between thirty and sixty minutes with the child between safety checks. However, DHS continued to have concerns for the mother's ability to provide for her own needs independently, let alone a child's needs, and the mother's lack of a meaningful support system. As a result, the mother never progressed beyond semi-supervised visits. The mother underwent IQ testing in December, which resulted in findings that her IQ, verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed, are all "extremely low." By February 2020, DHS recommended instituting termination proceedings. In her report, the social worker opined "parenting a child full-time on her own appears to be outside of the limits of [the mother's] abilities."

The State filed its petition for termination of parental rights in March. The matter was set for trial in July and then reset as to the mother in August. In July, the court entered an order terminating the parental rights of any putative father of the child. Trial as to the mother was again reset for November. A few days before the first day of trial, the mother filed a motion for overnight visits. She contemporaneously filed a "request for services and motion to continue," in which she identified two potential fathers of the child and requested a continuance for the purpose of conducting paternity testing. The court ordered the motions be addressed at the time of trial.

At the outset of trial, the court denied the mother's motions for overnight visitation and continuance for paternity testing. The court reasoned semi-supervised visits were tailored to the needs of the mother and child and jumping over unsupervised visits to overnights would be too extreme. On the motion to continue, the court noted the mother had offered up multiple men as the potential father, all of whom turned out to not be the father. The court viewed the mother's motion as another delay tactic and concluded any further delay would be contrary to the child's best interests and need for permanency. In its written ruling, the court echoed its reasoning and added the parental rights of any putative father had already been terminated.

At the termination hearing, one of the service providers testified to her belief that the mother's intellectual deficiencies prevent her from meeting the child's basic needs. The DHS worker echoed this concern and added that the mother "will need significant help meeting her own needs and...

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