No. 6-203 / 06-0131
Filed April 12, 2006
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Michael Dieterich, District Associate Judge.
A mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.
Scott E. Schroeder of Schroeder Law Office, Burlington, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick C. Jackson, County Attorney, and Pamela Dettmann, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.
Considered by Huitink, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Eisenhauer, JJ.
A mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her children. She contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. Our review is de novo. In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000).
The mother's parental rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(f) (termination appropriate where child is four or older, adjudicated CINA, removed from home for twelve of the last eighteen months, and child cannot be returned to parents' custody) and (h) (child is three or younger, adjudicated CINA, removed from home for six of last twelve months, and child cannot be returned to parents' custody) (2005). The mother does not dispute that the first three criteria under these sections have been met. She disputes the juvenile court's finding there was clear and convincing evidence the children could not be returned to her custody. See Iowa Code §§ 232.116(1)(f)(4), (h)(4).
The father's parental rights were also terminated pursuant to sections 232.116(1)(f) and (h). He is not a party to this appeal.
Clear and convincing evidence shows termination was appropriate. The mother could not be located when the children were initially placed in voluntary foster care in February 2004. After returning to their mother's care in May 2004, the children were removed in August 2005. Again, the mother could not be reached to be informed about the removal. In September 2004 the children were adjudicated CINA as defined in Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(a) (a child whose parent has abandoned or deserted the child).
The children were living with their father at the time.
From the time the children were initially placed in foster care in February 2004 to the time of the termination hearing in November 2005, the mother's participation in services was inconsistent at best. She did not maintain regular contact with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). She repeatedly missed visits with the children and missed appointments for mental health and substance abuse evaluations. After completing the substance abuse evaluation she did not follow through with treatment. She has admitted to continued use of alcohol and marijuana. She has not maintained a safe and stable home or been able to maintain steady employment. She did not attend the permanency hearing in August 2005. When DHS located her a month later, she thought her parental rights to the children were already terminated and did not ask about the children.
We agree with the juvenile court's conclusion the mother's response to services has been "virtually non-existent," and that to return the children to her care would subject the children to the following adjudicatory harms: lack of long-term commitment to the children, lack of a safe and stable home, unresolved substance abuse and mental health issues, lack of proper supervision, and denial of critical care. Any changes the mother may have made during the three months prior to the termination hearing have come too little, too late. See In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d at 495 ("A parent cannot wait until the eve of termination . . . to begin to express an interest in parenting."). Under the facts of this case, termination is warranted.
We affirm the termination of the mother's parental rights to her children.