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In the Interest of H.D.

February 27, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Sioux County, Brian L. Michaelson, Associate Juvenile Judge.

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

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his daughter. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

H.D. was eighteen-months old at the time of the hearing on the State's petition to terminate parental rights. The juvenile court severed the child's legal ties with both her father and mother. Her father, David, appeals. David claims the court erred in finding statutory grounds for termination and argues the decision is not in H.D's best interest because of their father-daughter bond.

We review parental termination decisions de novo. In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 773 (Iowa 2012). While we are not bound by them, we give deference to the juvenile court's credibility determinations, as well as other factual findings. Id.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Tasha and David met in May 2010. Tasha was twenty-two and David was thirty-eight years old. Each had a child from another relationship. Tasha's three-year-old son was adjudicated as a child in need of assistance (CINA) when they were living with David. Before she moved to Iowa with her son, the South Dakota Department of Human Services recommended Tasha undergo a substance abuse evaluation and complete treatment. That department also determined that Tasha's use of methamphetamine while caring for her son amounted to "substantiated neglect."

The juvenile court found David did not support Tasha's efforts to achieve sobriety. David also abused alcohol and controlled substances on a daily basis.*fn1

His alcohol consumption fueled fights with Tasha, who relocated several times during the fall of 2010-including a stay at a domestic abuse shelter.

Their child in common, H.D., was born in April 2011. Both parents continued to abuse alcohol and fight with one another. In September 2011, the family's troubles came to a head. An investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) revealed that Tasha punched David in the mouth while he was holding H.D. Tasha was hospitalized for attempting a drug overdose when David told her their relationship was over; she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. CPS also determined that David denied critical care to H.D. because he consumed methamphetamine and marijuana while she was in his care. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) placed H.D. in foster care on September 21, 2011-where she has remained since that date.*fn2

In a December 7, 2011 placement order, the juvenile court found David had admitted past and present use of marijuana and methamphetamine. The court also noted a domestic violence protective order prevented contact between David and Tasha. At David's request, the court cancelled the protective order on January 3, 2012. Also in early January, David tested positive for the synthetic drug known as K-2 spice and stopped working with his Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor. In a February 2012 order, the juvenile court found the parents' relationship remained chaotic and dysfunctional. Because David admitted using illicit drugs, his visits with H.D. were changed from semi-supervised to fully supervised. In April 2012, the police charged both parents with disorderly conduct. In a May 2012 order, the juvenile court noted David was attending substance abuse treatment, but missed the last three sessions and continued to drink alcohol. He also continued contact with Tasha.

Following an August 31, 2012 review hearing, the juvenile court determined H.D. could not be returned to either parent. David did not follow the DHS recommendation that he undergo intensive outpatient treatment, and he did not regularly attend AA meetings. The court found David failed to appreciate his alcohol-abuse problem. In addition, the relationship between David and Tasha remained unstable.

On September 19, 2012, the Sioux County Attorney filed a petition seeking termination of the parental rights of both Tasha and David. The juvenile court heard testimony regarding the petition on October 19 and October 26, 2012. In a December 7, 2012 order, the court concluded David's rights to H.D. should be terminated pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(d), (h), and (l) (2011).*fn3 The court concluded David could not now provide a safe, secure, or permanent home for H.D. because he "either cannot or will not put his desire to continue to consume alcohol and desire to continue to be involved in a ...

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