IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA
Filed October 21, 2020
IN THE INTEREST OF A.W.,
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mitchell County, Karen Kaufman
Salic, District Associate Judge.
A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. AFFIRMED.
William P. Baresel of Prichard Law Office, PC, Charles City, for appellant
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ellen Ramsey-Kacena, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Patrick J. Rourick, St. Ansgar, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Greer, JJ.
The mother and child, born in 2008, came to the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) in March 2019, when the mother was
arrested on an outstanding warrant and ultimately extradited to Georgia on
charges of assault, battery, and possession of marijuana. The child was placed in
foster care. The mother was released from jail in April 2020, after which she
continued to reside in Georgia. She has yet to complete nine years of felony
probation, during which she is required to live in Georgia and must obtain
permission to leave the state. While in jail and thereafter, the mother frequently
called and wrote the child. Shortly before the termination hearing in May 2020, the
child reported being upset with the mother because she showed signs of being
intoxicated and high during video contact after she was released from jail, which
was confirmed by the foster mother. The child reported her concern the mother
was already returning to her “old ways.” The child also reported she lost faith in
the mother and did not want to return to her care if she continued down the same
path. While we appreciate insight into the child’s feelings, they are not
determinative. After an objective review of the mother’s current skills and life
choices, the juvenile court focused on the inability of the mother, at the time of the
termination hearing and in the future, to provide a safe and stable home for the
child. Ultimately, the juvenile court granted the State’s petition for termination of
the mother’s parental rights. 1
1The father’s rights were also terminated. He did not participate in the proceedings
and does not appeal.
The mother now appeals. She agrees the State proved statutory grounds
for termination and termination is in the child’s best interests. See Iowa Code
§ 232.116(1), (2) (2020). She asks that the statutory exception contained in Iowa
Code section 232.116(3)(c) be applied to preclude termination. Our review is de
novo. In re L.T.,
, 526 (Iowa 2019). Our primary consideration is
the best interests of the child, In re J.E.,
, 798 (Iowa 2006), the
defining elements of which are the child’s safety and need for a permanent home.
In re H.S.,
, 748 (Iowa 2011).
Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(c) allows the juvenile court to forego
termination when “[t]here is clear and convincing evidence that the termination
would be detrimental to the child at the time due to the closeness of the parent-
child relationship.” We first note the application of the statutory exceptions to
termination is “permissive, not mandatory.” In re M.W.,
, 225 (Iowa
2016) (quoting In re A.M.,
, 113 (Iowa 2014)). The juvenile court
Any sadness the child may experience because of termination does
not overcome the likely long-term hardship and neglect the child will
suffer if in the care of [the mother] . . . . The court simply cannot find
that the parent-child relationship is so strong that it outweighs the
need for termination. Despite any fondness or love between the
[mother] and the child, it is not in the child’s best interest to wait any
longer for permanency.
While we acknowledge bonds exist between the mother and child, we agree with
the juvenile court’s assessment, and we affirm the termination of the mother’s