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In the Interest of T.S. and B.R.

March 13, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF T.S. AND B.R., MINOR CHILDREN, L.S., FATHER OF T.S., APPELLANT, W.R., FATHER OF B.R., APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

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

Two incarcerated fathers appeal the termination of their parental rights to their children. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

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

The juvenile court ordered half-brothers B.R. and T.S. to be removed from their mother's care in January 2012, after T.S. tested positive for cocaine at birth. The boys have been in foster care ever since. At the time of the hearing on the State's petition to terminate parental rights, both fathers were incarcerated and unable to care for their sons. The juvenile court terminated the parental rights of both fathers and the mother. The fathers now appeal.*fn1

Having reviewed the entire record, we agree with the juvenile court's conclusion that the children cannot presently be placed with their fathers, and it is not in the children's best interests to wait longer for permanency. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of parental rights.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has been involved with this family dating back to 2005, when B.R. was one year old. At that time B.R. and two older brothers were temporarily removed from the care of their mother, Trena, because she used crack cocaine in their presence. The DHS also confirmed incidents of child abuse against Trena in 2006 and 2007.

William is the father of two of Trena's sons.*fn2 Trena and William had a fourteen-year relationship, punctuated by domestic violence, substance abuse, and intermittent separations. Because of William's own involvement with illicit drugs and criminal activity he could not provide a safe home for B.R. William acknowledged: "I had a bad behavior pattern." Since 2007, William has been in federal prison for a drug conviction. He does not expect to be released until 2015. William participated in the termination hearing by telephone from Petersburg, Virginia.

In 2010, another DHS assessment determined Trena denied B.R. critical care by failing to ensure he took his tuberculosis (TB) medication, risking that he could become more seriously ill by developing drug-resistant TB.

In January 2012, Trena gave birth to T.S.; both mother and baby tested positive for cocaine at the hospital. Trena admitted using cocaine during the first six months of the pregnancy, and the day before T.S. was born. The juvenile court adjudicated both T.S. and B.R. as children in need of assistance (CINA) on January 9, 2012.

T.S.'s father, Leondo, spent four years in a relationship with Trena. Leondo has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for assault, possession of a controlled substance, burglary, theft, interference with official acts, and harassment. Leondo was serving his burglary sentence at a residential facility in Cedar Rapids at the time of the CINA adjudication. Except for one visit with T.S., he did not participate in the DHS case permanency plan. During the pendency of the CINA case, Leondo was twice charged with escape from the residential facility. He participated in the termination hearing by telephone from the Iowa Medical & Classification Center at Oakdale.

The State filed its petition to terminate parental rights on September 7, 2012. The juvenile court heard testimony on November 5, 2012, and issued its order on December 27, 2012. The court terminated William's rights over B.R., relying on Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(b), (e), and (f) (2011) and terminated Leondo's rights over T.S., citing sections 232.116(1)(b), (e), and (h). William and Leondo contest the juvenile court's order.

II. Standard of Review

We perform a de novo review of juvenile court orders terminating parental rights. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). While they are not binding on us, we give weight to the juvenile court's findings of fact, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses. Id. We will uphold a termination order if the record contains clear and convincing evidence of the grounds alleged under Iowa Code section 232.116. Id. Evidence is "clear and convincing" when ...


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