IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA
No. 1-726 / 01-1031
Filed December 12, 2001
IN THE INTEREST OF D.H., Minor Child,
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Gerald
W. Magee, Associate Juvenile Judge.
A mother appeals an order terminating her parental rights. AFFIRMED.
W. Alex Reiter, Forest City, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Elise Pippin, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee-State.
Amy D. Van Es, of the Young Law Office, Mason City, guardian ad litem
for the minor child.
Considered by Huitink, P.J., and Zimmer and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
Christy appeals a juvenile court order terminating her parental
relationship with her son Damion. We affirm.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
Damion, born in December 1998, is the child of Christy and James. At
the time of these proceedings, Christy and James were not living together,
in light of a domestic abuse restraining order entered against James.
Damion was in Christy's care.
When Damion was sixteen months old, an emergency room physician who
was treating him for flu-like symptoms also noted multiple bruises on the
child's body. The Department of Human Services became involved and,
following an investigation, issued a founded child abuse report against
Less than a month later, health care professionals examining Damion
discovered and surgically repaired a ruptured colon. Although physicians
could not determine how the injury occurred, they confirmed this type of
injury was rare in children. A hospital social worker stated the injury
raised suspicions of physical or sexual abuse. The department issued a
second founded child abuse report against Christy.
The department sought and obtained an order temporarily removing
Damion from his mother's home. Christy subsequently agreed to have Damion
adjudicated a child in need of assistance. Damion was placed in foster
care, where he remained for the balance of the proceedings.
Pursuant to the department's recommendation, the State applied to
terminate the parental rights of Christy and James vis-a-vis Damion. The
State alleged Christy failed to comply with a prior court order requiring
her to obtain a psychological and substance abuse evaluation and engaged in
only sporadic visitation with Damion. The State further claimed James had
effectively abandoned the child. The juvenile court agreed with the State
and granted the termination petition, relying on Iowa Code sections
232.116(1)(d)(1999) (absence of meaningful and significant contact) and
232.116(1)(g) (child cannot be returned to custody of parent), with respect
Only Christy appeals. We review her appeal de novo. In re K.R., 537
N.W.2d 774, 776 (Iowa 1995). We need only find one statutory termination
ground satisfied in order to affirm. See In re A.J., 553 N.W.2d 909, 911
(Iowa Ct. App. 1996). As we find sufficient evidence to support
termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), we will not address the
second ground on which the juvenile court relied.
II. Absence of "Meaningful and Significant Contact"
Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d)(3) authorizes termination of parental
rights where the court finds
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.
According to that provision, "significant and meaningful contact":
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
Christy agrees with the department that her contacts with Damion were
sporadic, but argues the juvenile court should have considered extenuating
circumstances, including the department's asserted failure to accommodate
her transportation needs. We are not persuaded by her argument.
Even before Damion was removed from Christy's care, Christy evinced a
lack of commitment toward her son. For example, when Damion was
hospitalized for colon surgery just prior to his removal, Christy declined
to remain with him, despite a social worker's offer to pay for a motel and
despite being told this was a life-threatening injury.
After Damion was removed from Christy's care, Christy retained her
cavalier attitude regarding contact with her son. For approximately four
months following the removal, the department afforded Christy unlimited
opportunities to visit Damion, as long as she first made arrangements with
the foster care provider. In addition, the department scheduled weekly
supervised visits between Christy and Damion. On average, Christy saw
Damion less than once a week during this four-month period.
The department next contracted with a therapist to provide weekly
supervised visitation between Christy and Damion. Christy was to contact
the therapist to schedule times for the visitations. Over the following
six months, Christy met with Damion seven times and, on one or more of
those occasions, did not avail herself of the full time allotted to her.
Although she claimed a lack of transportation prevented her from visiting
her son more often, a department social worker testified Christy could have
received transportation assistance from the department had she requested
it. Indeed, the case manager testified Christy was informed of the
availability of this service at case staffings and at court hearings but
"vehemently indicated that she did not need the Department's assistance
with getting transportation."
We recognize Christy was dealing with a number of issues during this
period, including the absence of stable housing or employment, drug use,
and legal problems involving charges of forgery and theft to which she
eventually pled guilty. We also recognize that Christy did not abdicate
her parental role as James did and, when she did have contact with Damion,
acted appropriately. However, given the limited time she had to recover
Damion, Christy needed to place him at the top of her priority list.
She did not do so. Accordingly, we conclude the State satisfied its burden
of proving that Christy failed to maintain significant and meaningful
contact with Damion, justifying termination of her parental relationship
 Under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d)(2), a child need only be out of
the parent's physical custody for six consecutive months before an order
terminating parental rights may be entered.