IN THE INTEREST OF J.C. and C.C., Minor Children, J.C., Father, Appellant, A.F., Mother, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Daniel L. Block, District Associate Judge.
A mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights.
Brett H. Schilling of Schilling Law Office, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant father. Sara Kersenbrock of Kersenbrock Law Office, Waterloo, for appellant mother.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Janet L. Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas J. Ferguson, County Attorney, and Kathleen A. Hahn, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Timothy Baldwin, Waterloo, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.
Amy is the mother and Joshua is the father of two girls, J.C. born in December 2010, and C.C. born in February 2012. The parents' rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (h), and (i) (2013). They separately appeal. We affirm, concluding the parents' lack of explanation for fractures suffered by one of the children at a time when both parents were the sole caretakers of the children supports termination.
Our review of termination of parental rights proceedings is de novo. In re H.S., 805 N.W.2d 737, 745 (Iowa 2011). Although we are not bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, we do give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility of witnesses. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). An order terminating parental rights will be upheld if there is clear and convincing evidence of grounds for termination under section 232.116. Id. Evidence is considered "clear and convincing" when there are no "serious or substantial doubts as to the correctness or conclusions of law drawn from the evidence." Id.
Both parents contend the statutory criteria for a termination of parental rights have not been met, termination is not in the children's best interest, and the juvenile court should have allowed them more time to seek reunification.
When the juvenile court terminates parental rights on more than one statutory ground, we may affirm the juvenile court's order on any ground we find supported by the record. D.W., 791 N.W.2d at 707. With respect to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h), both parents dispute only the fourth element, contending there is not clear and convincing evidence that the children cannot be returned to their custody at the present time. We disagree.
The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services on May 3, 2012, when the mother brought C.C. to the emergency room for cold symptoms. Medical personnel discovered the child had suffered nineteen fractures during her young life, including fractures to her right and left femurs, right and left tibia, and several ribs. The family had moved to the area recently from Pennsylvania. The injuries appeared to be several weeks old. The parents acknowledged being the infant's sole caretakers, but had no explanation for the child's injuries, and did not initially even concede the child had sustained injuries. Testing was done to determine if C.C. had brittle bone disorder, which came back negative. It was determined the injuries were non-accidental.
The children were removed from the parents in May and were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) in September. The parents have received numerous services, but have not moved beyond supervised visits because they continue to deny any responsibility for, or knowledge of, C.C.'s injuries. Both parents have mental health issues that call for continued treatment. While each parent contends the children could be returned to their care at present, in light of ...