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In the Interest of K.P.

April 10, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Tama County, Angie Wilson, Judge.

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

The mother of K.P., A.P., and C.O. appeals the termination of her parental rights. The father of K.P. and A.P. also appeals the termination of his parental rights. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

The mother and father of K.P. and A.P. appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights. The mother also appeals termination of her rights as to C.O.*fn1 The father's life has been marred by drug abuse and criminal convictions and he has shown little interest in the children. The mother has been unable to give priority to her children and focus on their needs. We affirm on both appeals because grounds for termination exist and termination is in the children's best interest.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Brandon and Rebecca are the parents of K.P., born in 2008, and A.P., born in 2011. Rebecca is also the mother of C.O., born in 2004. C.O., K.P., and A.P. most recently came to the attention of the Department of Human Services (DHS) in February 2011*fn2 after allegations the parents were using methamphetamine in the presence of the children and a report of an incident of domestic violence. A DHS assessment resulted in multiple concerns, including a "chaotic" household, poor hygiene, and lice infestation. C.O. had missed at least thirty-five days of school, and Rebecca was very depressed. However, DHS did not confirm the allegations of drug use or the incident of domestic violence.

The State filed child in need of assistance (CINA) petitions for C.O. and K.P. on March 23, 2011. The attached affidavit listed the following concerns: problems observed in the 2011 child abuse assessment, the 2007 supervision concerns, and Brandon's twenty criminal convictions. Rebecca and Brandon signed a voluntary service agreement, but each failed to follow through. Rebecca failed to address her mental health, and Brandon did not cooperate with drug testing.

Without permission from DHS, the parents moved to Texas and left K.P. and C.O. in Iowa with Rebecca's sister. A third child, A.P., was born in Texas on May 5, 2011. The hospital reported concerns regarding the parents' lack of contact and bonding with A.P., who was born with meconium aspiration syndrome. Rebecca and Brandon did not appear troubled by A.P.'s health concerns. Rebecca told the hospital she had no means to care for her children. A petition alleging A.P. to be a CINA was filed on May 18, 2011.

Rebecca's sister took C.O. and K.P. to Texas around May 15, 2011. The children were removed from Rebecca and Brandon by Child Protective Services in McAllen, Texas. Iowa Department of Human Services workers traveled to Texas on May 19 and flew all three children back to Iowa. All three children were placed with paternal grandparents. On July 6, 2011, Brandon and Rebecca stipulated that the children were in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2011).

Brandon remained in Texas. Rebecca moved back to Iowa to live with the paternal grandparents and her children for a few months beginning in June 2011. However, she failed to take responsibility for the children and was no longer welcome at that home by the dispositional hearing on August 24, 2011. There were ongoing concerns of lice in Rebecca's new Iowa home, and C.O. had educational delays and masturbated almost daily.*fn3 Although C.O. had been diagnosed with ADHD, he was not medicated because Rebecca and Brandon allowed their Title XIX to lapse. K.P. had delayed speech and exhibited detachment from her surroundings. A.P. was generally doing well, though she did not have a bond with Rebecca, as she had never been in her mother's care.

Both parents were ordered to submit to drug testing at the August 24, 2011 dispositional hearing. Rebecca's test was negative, but Brandon's hair stat test was very high for amphetamine and methamphetamine. He denied using methamphetamine. Rebecca first reported that she was going to leave Brandon, but she moved back to Texas with Brandon after the hearing. She wanted the children moved to foster care in Texas.

Rebecca and Brandon only saw the children three times between August 24, 2011, and November 30, 2011. When Brandon visited the children, he exhibited little interest in them. At a family team meeting on November 18, Brandon denied using methamphetamine, but emphasized that use was legal in Mexico. He was directed to complete a substance abuse evaluation and follow treatment recommendations.

At the November 30, 2011 review hearing, neither parent had complied with the case plan. Neither had been drug tested. Rebecca had not completed a mental health evaluation as ordered, nor was she receiving treatment. The parents were living in Texas. Due to a total lack of progress, the guardian ad litem for the children filed petitions for termination as to K.P. and A.P.

Rebecca moved back to Iowa in December 2011. Her visits with the children improved, but were not consistent. She alternated between expressing plans to reunite with Brandon and professing a commitment to end the relationship and focus on her children. However, she completed her mental health evaluation and was working on setting up treatment and parenting classes. Rebecca was given a three-month extension to work toward reunification.

Between December 28, 2011, and February 29, 2012, Rebecca attended five of the nine scheduled visits with her children. Rebecca repeatedly asked the DHS worker why she could not maintain a relationship with Brandon. The worker explained that the children were not considered safe with Brandon and that staying in a relationship with him could result in termination of her rights.

In March 2012, Rebecca got an apartment. She missed her first scheduled visit with the children, but had three other visits that month. Her interactions with the children had improved, but after visits in her home, she returned the children to the paternal grandparents with head lice and hand, foot, and mouth disease. On one of the visit dates, Rebecca saw Brandon. She denied that the children also saw him at that time.

Rebecca had been claiming she ended her relationship with Brandon, and understood he was noncompliant with DHS and court requests. However, at a family team meeting on March 29, 2012, she explained that she had been with Brandon for nine years and she could not walk away from the relationship. At that meeting, she admitted that if the children were returned to her care, she planned to move to Texas and live with Brandon. Domestic violence counseling was recommended at the meeting, but Rebecca claimed the services were unnecessary.

A termination petition was ordered as to C.O. on April 25, 2012. The district court noted Rebecca continued to exhibit three primary impediments to reunification, including her "inability to understand Brandon could not be a part of her life if she wanted the children with her . . . struggle to consistently deal with her mental health . . . [and] struggles with financial stability and caring for all three children."

At the review hearing in June 2012, the court found Rebecca was making considerable effort to comply with the court's directives and had made substantial progress. The court cancelled the scheduled termination hearing and provided another extension to afford Rebecca an opportunity to make continued progress. She was afforded substantial visitation, including overnight visits. A review hearing was set for August 29, 2012. Rebecca was directed not to have face-to-face or phone contact with Brandon during visits.

Brandon had no contact with DHS. He was believed to be in Texas, but received traffic violations in Iowa on June 30 and July 7 for driving while suspended. He was arrested on July 10, 2012, and was charged with conspiracy to manufacture, deliver and or possess with the intent to deliver methamphetamine, ...

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