Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Peter A. Keller, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle, P.J.
A father appeals from the order terminating his parental rights. AFFIRMED.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
A father appeals from the termination of his parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 600A.8 (2011). He contends the grounds for termination were not proved by clear and convincing evidence and termination is not in the children's best interests. Because we find the father has abandoned the children and the children's best interests are served by termination of the father's parental rights, we affirm.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
J.B. is the father of the three children at issue in this case born in 2002, 2003, and 2005, respectively.*fn1 The father noticed the mother was distant with the children after each child's birth, and he at times was the sole caregiver for the children. Despite his observations of the mother's relationship with the children, the father left the children in the care of the mother when he was working.
The family moved numerous times. In 2005, the parents lived with the father's brother, who had a known history of sexual child abuse. The father stated he believed the children were safe with his brother because his brother had completed a sex-offender program and because he believed the mother was supervising the children. Tragically, they were not safe; two of the children were sexually abused by their uncle.
The family again moved in early 2006. The father took a job that required him to travel for varying amounts of time, sometimes up to a week. Although he knew the mother was abusing alcohol and substances at that time, he continued to allow the children to remain her care.
In December 2006, the Iowa Department of Human Services (Department) became involved with the family after it made a finding of physical abuse against the mother for punching one of the children in the nose. The father stated he only learned of this incident after a Department worker arrived at the family's home to make an inspection.
Thereafter, the father was laid off from his employment, and he decided to pursue his commercial driver's license at a three-month program in Utah. About that time, the mother entered a substance abuse treatment facility that permitted the children to live with her. The father then relocated to Utah in September 2007. He later learned the mother had been kicked out of the treatment program, and he returned to Iowa in November 2007 for one week. At that time, the maternal grandmother agreed she would care for the children while the father returned to Utah to finish his program. The children have remained in her care since.
In January 2008, the father voluntarily agreed to a legal guardianship of the children by the maternal grandmother in a mediation facilitated by the Department, and the grandmother was appointed guardian of all three children by the district court two months later. The father stated he was unhappy with the amount of visitation allowed by the grandmother, and in early 2009, the parents filed a motion to terminate the grandmother's guardianship. The district court denied the parents motion, but an agreement was made allowing for supervised visitation by the parents. Although the father attended his scheduled visits for four months, his visitation ended after he was arrested and charged with conspiracy following an incident where he and the mother assaulted a relative of the father. In May 2009, the district court determined the parents could have contact with the children but only in a therapeutic setting. The father has made a few attempts since that time to visit the children, but he failed to follow-up with the children's therapist. The father has not seen the children since 2009.
In 2012, the grandmother filed her petition for termination of the parents' parental rights. The father resisted. Following a trial, the district court entered its order terminating the father's parental rights, finding he abandoned the children and the termination of his parental rights was in the children's best interests.