In re Interest of A.R., No. 14–1204.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMULLINS, J.
Citation863 N.W.2d 36 (Table)
PartiesIn the Interest of A.R., D.R., J.C. and J.C., Minor Children, A.M., Mother, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 14–1204.
Decision Date25 February 2015

863 N.W.2d 36 (Table)

In the Interest of A.R., D.R., J.C. and J.C., Minor Children
A.M., Mother, Appellant.

No. 14–1204.

Court of Appeals of Iowa.

Feb. 25, 2015.


Erin M. Carr of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller–Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Michael Chenoweth, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Deborah Johnson, Altoona, for father of D.R. and A.R.

William Sales of Sales Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for father of J.C. and J.C.

Charles Fuson of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

Considered by POTTERFIELD, P.J., and TABOR and MULLINS, JJ.

Opinion

MULLINS, J.

The mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights to four children under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d) (2013).1 Although the State petitioned for termination on six different statutory grounds, the juvenile court terminated the mother's rights pursuant to subsection (1)(d) only. Because the record does not show by clear and convincing evidence that there was a child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) adjudication in a prior proceeding or that there was a nonaccidental injury to any of the children in the current CINA proceeding, we reverse the termination of the parental rights of the mother.

I. BACKGROUND

In this case, the State alleged the statutory grounds for termination were Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (f), (g), (h), (k) and (l ). The juvenile court summarized the procedural background of the case as follows:

CINA petitions for all four children filed in late January 2013. Children were all removed from Mother's care. Subsequent orders confirming removal, adjudicating children in need of assistance, and for disposition entered in Winter/Spring 2013. Court thereafter held review hearings. Children were never returned to Mother's custody at anytime throughout the case. The [C.] children were returned to Father's custody in or about October 2013 and have there remained reunited with Mr. [C.]. The [R.] children have been in other placements and as of the last court hearing, the [R.] children were in family foster care and remain there pursuant to Undersigned's orders and understandings as of this time.
The Court was asked to and did make a permanency ruling in the CINA cases in January 2014, directing the TPRs to be filed.
Termination hearing was held April 24, 2014.

After identifying the children and the parents, the court made these findings:

8. The Mother has not addressed any of the reasons for which the children were adjudicated in the CINA cases.
9. The Mother has not provided drug screens.
10. The Mother has been largely uncooperative with any and all professionals and social workers.
11. The Mother's testimony from April 24, 2014 best indicates that she refuses to acknowledge any need for mental health assessment, treatment or counseling.
12. The record establishes that over the course of the child welfare cases, she attended approximately half of the visits with her children.
13. The bottom line is the Mother has been in large measure actively working against the professionals in this case, unwilling to make any changes in her own life despite obvious need in order for her to be minimally adequate as a parent to one or four children.

Upon that backdrop, the court reviewed the requirements of Iowa Code section 232.116(1)-(3) and provided this analysis:

The Court concludes the State has proven subsection d is met as the statutory ground supporting termination as to the Mother [ ] and termination of her parental rights. The same statutory ground is deemed met as to Father [of the younger children] as it relates to his parental rights to his two children named herein. In the interests of time and finality the Court deems it most prudent to simply rely upon this statutory ground. The Court does not find or consider this to be a close case.

Additional facts and background will be developed below.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review termination of parental rights de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). We will uphold an order terminating parental rights where there is clear and convincing evidence of the statutory grounds for termination. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). Evidence is clear and convincing when there is no serious or substantial doubt as to the correctness of the conclusions of law drawn from the evidence. Id.

III. ANALYSIS

As the juvenile court chose to terminate only under 232.116(1)(d), we only consider that ground.2 See In re J.B.L ., 844 N.W.2d 703, 704 (Iowa Ct.App.2014). To terminate parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), the State must show

1. The court has previously adjudicated the child to be in need of assistance after finding the child to have been physically or sexually abused or neglected as the result of the acts or omissions of one or both parents or the court has previously adjudicated a child who is a member of the same family to be a child in need of assistance after such a finding [, and]

2. Subsequent to the child in need of assistance adjudication, the parents were offered or received services to correct the circumstance which led to the adjudication, and the circumstance continues to exist despite the offer or receipt of services.

For the mother's first issue on appeal, she argues: “The State has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the Mother was offered or received services to correct the circumstances which led to the adjudication or that the circumstances still exist despite the offering or receipt of services.” Her argument focuses on her claims that the visitation arrangements were inadequate to allow her to demonstrate her parenting skills and to progress toward reunification with her children.

In order to determine what circumstances led to the adjudication and required correction, we look to the adjudication order. The juvenile court made findings of fact which included:

3. There is clear and convincing evidence to support the allegations of the Petition(s) & the children are adjudicated in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code Section(s) 232.2(6) and the aid of the Court is required, per ground
4. The Court makes the following specific findings of facts: Exh. 1 & 2 dated 3/12/13 evince significant concerns associated with failure to supervise children & allowing unvetted & inappropriate persons to provide care (note: court advised investigation of SA re child [Jo.C.] unfounded).

The court did not specify under which paragraph of section 232.2(6) it found the children were CINA.3 On our de novo review we have examined the exhibits identified in the findings of fact. Exhibit 1 is a Child Protective Service Assessment Summary as to children Jo.C. and Ja.C. The report was founded as to both children for denial of critical care and failure to provide proper supervision. Exhibit 2 is a Child Protective Service Assessment Summary as to children D.R., Ja.C., Jo.C., and A.R. The report concludes the allegation of denial of critical care, failure to provide proper supervision is confirmed; the allegation of physical abuse is not confirmed; and the allegation of “allows access to obscene material” is not confirmed.

Pursuant to the terms of the adjudication order and the exhibits referenced in the order, the circumstances which existed at the time of the adjudication were denial of critical care and failure to provide proper supervision. This would seem to support a CINA determination under section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and (n). These sections provide a child in need of assistance is a child:

(c) Who has suffered or is imminently likely to suffer harmful effects as a result of any of the following:
(1) ....
(2) The failure of the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides to exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising the child.
....
(n) Whose parent's or guardian's mental capacity or condition, imprisonment, or drug or alcohol abuse results in the child not receiving adequate care.

Iowa Code § 232.6.

The court at adjudication made no finding of physical abuse or neglect or imminent likelihood of abuse or neglect as would be required under section 232.2(6)(b) ; and on our de novo review we find none. We next focus on whether the CINA findings with which we agree—denial of critical care and failure to provide proper supervision—could satisfy the requirements of a section 232.116(1)(d) termination.

In a CINA case, not a termination case, our supreme court explained: “a CINA determination under...

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