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In re J.W.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

May 30, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF J.W. JR., Minor Child, T.C., Mother, Appellant, J.W. SR., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and a father appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Patrick W. O'Bryan, Des Moines, for appellant-mother.

          Joey T. Hoover of Hoover Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Winterset, for appellant-father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Michelle Saveraid of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MULLINS, J.

         A mother and a father appeal separately from a juvenile court order terminating their respective parental rights to their child, J.W., under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d) and (h) (2011). The mother asserts clear and convincing evidence does not support terminating her parental rights. The father argues (1) the juvenile court erred in finding clear and convincing evidence supports terminating his rights under either section 232.116(1)(d) or section 232.116(1)(h), (2) terminating his parental rights is not in the child's best interest, (3) a statutory exception to termination based on the closeness of the parent-child relationship precludes termination, and (4) he should be granted additional time to work toward reunification. We affirm on both appeals.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         J.W. was born in April 2011. J.W.'s mother has three other children— J.W.'s older half-siblings—who were removed from her care but were not the subject of the underlying termination proceedings and are not at issue in the present appeal. The mother has a long, troubled history with the Department of Human Services (DHS) including at least thirteen founded child protective assessments, many for the physical abuse of her children. J.W.'s father has a long history of substance abuse and involvement in violent behavior, including being shot on two occasions.

         On the day J.W. was born, the State requested an order temporarily removing J.W. from the mother's care. At the time J.W.'s half-siblings had already been removed from the mother's care because of extensive, founded child abuse reports. The juvenile court granted temporary removal. In a subsequent removal hearing, neither the mother nor the father contested continued removal. The court took judicial notice of the child-in-need-of- assistance cases involving J.W.'s half-siblings, which included reports that the mother physically abused the children and the father tested positive for cocaine despite denying any use.

         In May 2011, the State filed a child-in-need-of-assistance petition alleging that the mother physically abused J.W.'s half-siblings and failed to meet their mental health and emotional needs. The petition also alleged the father's unresolved substance abuse issues prevented him from providing adequate supervision. During the adjudication proceedings, J.W.'s guardian ad litem (GAL) expressed concern about the mother's minimization of the issues involving the older half-siblings. The court adjudicated J.W. as a child in need of assistance, and ordered both the mother and the father to participate in services designed to reunify them with J.W. The court confirmed J.W.'s out-of-home placement and status as a child in need of assistance.

         In July 2011, the juvenile court held an uncontested dispositional hearing. Both parents stipulated that J.W. continued to be a child in need of assistance. The mother's social history entered at the dispositional hearing revealed the older half-siblings had suffered extensive physical abuse at the ...


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