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In the Interest of J.J. Jr.

January 9, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF J.J. JR., MINOR CHILD, J.R., MOTHER, APPELLANT, J.A.J. SR., FATHER, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J. Tabor, District Associate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bower, J.

A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. They each contend the State failed to prove the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence and failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify them with the child. They also contend termination is not in the child's best interests and request additional time to demonstrate they can safely parent the child.

Because the parents do not challenge the termination under sections 232.116(1)(h), and (l) (2011), we may affirm on these grounds. The parents failed to raise a challenge to the reasonableness of the efforts to reunify them with the child, and therefore error has not been preserved for our review. We find termination is in the child's best interests and granting the parents additional time to demonstrate they can safely parent the child is unwarranted. Accordingly, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The child was born in September 2010 and first came to the attention of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in August 2011 after testing positive for cocaine. The child, who had delays in speech and motor skills, was placed in foster care in September 2011 and was adjudicated to be in need of assistance (CINA) in October 2011.

Services were offered to both parents. The mother tested positive for illegal substances when she first became involved with the DHS, but successfully completed substance abuse treatment and has maintained sobriety. The mother also received services to address her mental health. She was taking her prescribed medication at the time of the termination hearing, but has not always been consistent in this regard. Although the mother received services to address her domestic abuse issues, there were concerns that the mother and father would resume a relationship; their relationship has been marked with domestic violence.

The father has been sporadic in his participation in services. He did complete a substance abuse evaluation, but not until June 27, 2012, and by the time of the termination hearing, he had just begun to receive the treatment recommended. The father ceased participating in mental health treatment in March 2012, and, further, he has not consistently attended visitation with the child.

At the time of removal, the child had suffered a number of ear infections and some of his developmental delays were believed to be attributed to that. Surgery in January 2012 reduced the number of ear infections the child suffers, but did not assist with the speech delays. However, the child's speech skills are improving in foster care. Improvements have also been shown in the child's fine and gross motor skills, and social skills.

The State filed a petition seeking to terminate both parents' rights in July 2012. The termination hearing was held in August and September 2012. On September 18, 2012, the juvenile court entered its order terminating both the mother and father's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(d), (h), and (l).

II. Scope and Standard of Review.

We review termination of parental rights proceedings de novo. In re D.S., 806 N.W.2d 458, 465 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011). While we are not bound by the juvenile court's fact-findings, we do give them weight, especially when assessing witness credibility. Id.

An order terminating parental rights will be upheld if there is clear and convincing evidence of grounds for termination under section 232.116. Id. Evidence is "clear and convincing" where there is no "serious or substantial doubts as to the ...


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