No. 3-661 / 03-1179
Filed September 10, 2003
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Tama County, Susan Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.
A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her two children. AFFIRMED.
Daniel Rathjen, of Willett Rathjen, Tama, for mother.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Tabitha Gardner, Assistant Attorney General, and Brent Heeren, Tama County Attorney, for appellee.
Thomas Grabinski, Toledo, for minor children.
Considered by Huitink, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Eisenhauer, JJ.
A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her two children. She contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. She also contends termination is not in the best interest of the children. We review her claims de novo. In re C.H., 652 N.W.2d 144, 147 (Iowa 2002).
The juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(e), (f), and (l) (2003). We need only find termination proper on one ground to affirm. In re R.R.K., 544 N.W.2d 274, 276 (Iowa Ct.App. 1995). Termination is proper under section 232.116(1)(e) where:
(1) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance pursuant to section 232.96.
(2) The child has been removed from the physical custody of the child's parents for a period of at least six consecutive months.
(3) There is clear and convincing evidence that the parents have not maintained significant and meaningful contact with the child during the previous six consecutive months and have made no reasonable efforts to resume care of the child despite being given the opportunity to do so. For the purposes of this subparagraph, "significant and meaningful contact" includes but is not limited to the affirmative assumption by the parents of the duties encompassed by the role of being a parent. This affirmative duty, in addition to financial obligations, requires continued interest in the child, a genuine effort to complete the responsibilities prescribed in the case permanency plan, a genuine effort to maintain communication with the child, and requires that the parents establish and maintain a place of importance in the child's life.
Although the mother disputes the final element of this section has been met, we conclude the State has proven by clear and convincing evidence that the mother had not maintained significant and meaningful contact with her children in the six months leading up to termination, and that she has made no reasonable efforts to resume care of her children despite being given the opportunity to do so. The evidence presented at the termination hearing shows the mother has not had significant contact with her children for two years. She acknowledged at trial that she had continued to use drugs and was in jail for a total of five months out the year preceding the trial. At times, the Department of Human Services and the Court Appointed Special Advocate did not know where to find the mother. Although services were available to assist the mother, she did not avail herself of them.
We likewise conclude termination is in the best interest of the children. The mother has a significant history of substance abuse and mental health problems. The mother's difficulties led to a chaotic life for her children. She has not utilized the services offered to help her correct her problems. Meanwhile, the children have improved since their removal from their mother's care. Children should not be forced to endlessly await the maturity of a natural parent. In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 494 (Iowa 2000). "At some point, the rights and needs of the child rise above the rights and needs of the parent." In re J.L.W., 570 N.W.2d 778, 781 (Iowa Ct.App. 1997).