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In re A.H.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF A.H., Minor Child, A.K., Mother, Appellant, A.H., Father, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Deborah F. Minot, District Associate Judge.

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

Amy L. Evenson of Larson & Evenson, Iowa City, for appellant mother.

Shawn M. Fitzgerald of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner, Burbidge, & Fitzgerald, P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellant father.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Janet M. Lyness, County Attorney, and Emily Voss, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Brandon Schrock of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

VOGEL, P.J.

A father and mother separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. The mother asserts the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the child cannot be safely returned to her care and it is not in the child's best interests to terminate. Both the father and mother assert they should be provided an additional six months to work toward reunification.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

A.H., born in April 2012, was removed from the parents' care in June 2012 following a report to police of a domestic situation where the father left the home with the child after an argument with the mother, and the father did not have any supplies for the baby. The officer reporting to the scene asked the mother who watched the child, and her three-year-old half-sister, J.L., [1] when the mother was at work. The officer was concerned as he knew the father was on the sex offender registry and was not to be left alone with the children. The mother initially stated the father watched the children as it was approved by the sheriff's office, but she later changed her story to report her wheelchair-bound neighbor and her father watched the children. The officer contacted the department of human services (DHS).

The police were called back to the couple's home the next day due to another domestic dispute. When DHS arrived, a safety plan was developed with the mother agreeing to stay at her father's house with the children while the assessment was pending, not allow the father to have contact with J.L., and supervise all contact between the father and A.H. However, the father left a message for the social worker later that day stating the mother would not be abiding by the safety plan. The social worker contacted the mother who confirmed she would not follow the safety plan. DHS also got a report from the doctor for A.H. stating the parents had failed to bring the child to two scheduled appointments.

The DHS applied for temporary emergency removal of both children, which was granted June 29, 2012. The children were placed in foster care. Child-in-need-of-assistance petitions were filed July 3, 2012, for both children, and after a hearing, the court found substantial evidence that there was imminent danger to the children's life and health and the continuation of the children in the parents' home was contrary to their welfare because

the children have been exposed to [the father], who is a child sex offender on the sex offender registry, [2] without adequate supervision; the children were staying in a home where [J.L.] was sexually abused by a non-relative in the middle of the night, while her mother and [the father] were sleeping nearby;[3] there is evidence of domestic discord between the parents that has been both verbal and physical; the parents were not honest and cooperative with police and DHS during the investigations leading up to the removal; and the parents refuse to agree to abide by a Safety Plan that would have allowed the children to remain in the custody of their mother. The Court finds that reasonable ...

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