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In re T.E.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

August 7, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF T.E., Minor Child, J.E., Father, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Franklin County, Peter B. Newell, Judge.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his two-year-old son.

Larry W. Johnson of Walters & Johnson, Iowa Falls, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Dan Wiechmann, County Attorney, and Brent J. Symens, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Randy Johansen, Sheffield, for mother. Megan Rosenberg, Hampton, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

TABOR, J.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights, contending the State did not provide reasonable efforts to facilitate reunification with his son. Because the father refused to participate in mental health and substance abuse treatment to address the danger he posed to his son, the State did not fall short of its reasonable-efforts obligation by denying less restrictive visitations.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Naomi and Jonathan are the parents of T.E., who is now two years old. The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) based on several instances of domestic violence between Naomi and Jonathan. T.E. was present during at least one verbal and physical altercation that took place in the hotel room where Naomi and Jonathan were living.

On October 4, 2011, the State filed a petition alleging T.E. was a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA). During a hearing two weeks later, parties agreed to continue the CINA proceedings. But on November 10, 2011, after both parents violated the DHS safety plan by being together in T.E.'s presence, the court authorized T.E.'s removal. Six days later, the court ordered T.E. remain in DHS custody; Naomi and Jonathan participate in a family centered psychological evaluation; Naomi participate in domestic violence counseling; and Jonathan "undergo a substance abuse evaluation and follow any recommendations for treatment." On December 6, 2011, Naomi and Jonathan stipulated to a finding that T.E. was a CINA. During a hearing the following month, the court learned despite Naomi's report to DHS that she was no longer in a relationship with Jonathan, the two had traveled together to New York City for New Year's Eve.

A mental health report of both parents, submitted during an April 3, 2012 review hearing, revealed Jonathan has been charged with arson, kidnapping, carrying a concealed weapon, theft, and assault. Jonathan admitted to previous hospitalizations for mental health reasons, extensive prior drug use, and spending two and a half years in prison for arson. Jonathan has been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

On August 21, 2012, the court held another review hearing, where it learned Naomi had been arrested in June for operating while intoxicated (OWI), arrested in July for assault, and was inconsistent in her visits with T.E. While Jonathan was consistent in his visitations with T.E. and submitted to mental health and substance abuse evaluations, Jonathan continued to refuse services offered by the State.

During an October 30, 2012 permanency hearing, the parties revealed Naomi was recently arrested twice for driving while revoked. Jonathan still refused mental health treatment or other services offered. After the hearing, he posted several threatening messages on Facebook, prompting DHS ...


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