IN THE INTEREST OF J.B., Minor Child, B.A., Father, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Stephen C. Clarke, Judge.
A father contests the juvenile court's refusal to allow him an additional six months to work toward unification with his son.
Michael H. Bandy of Bandy Law Office, Waterloo, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas J. Ferguson, County Attorney, and Steven J. Halbach, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
John Harris of McCrindle Law Office, Waterloo, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.
J.B., now two years of age, has been in foster care since he was eight months old. His father, Brett, contests the juvenile court's refusal to allow him an additional six months to work toward unification with his son. Reviewing the record de novo—but giving deference to the juvenile court's first-hand assessment of Brett's "reluctant testimony"—we affirm the order terminating parental rights.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Brett has never had custody of J.B. J.B.'s biological mother, S.K.B., was married to S.B. when she gave birth to J.B. in December 2011. When S.K.B. identified Brett as the biological father during her pregnancy, he "really didn't believe her."
In August 2012, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) asked the juvenile court to issue an order temporarily removing J.B. from the home of S.K.B. and S.B. after S.K.B. was charged with child endangerment for leaving the infant alone in a car outside her apartment building. The removal order detailed S.K.B.'s history of violence, substance abuse, and mental health concerns. The removal order did not list a biological father.
The juvenile court adjudicated J.B. as a child in need of assistance (CINA) on October 3, 2012. The order expressed continued concerns about the volatility of the relationship between S.K.B. and S.B. The order also noted Brett had appeared at the hearing as the putative biological father of the child. Brett acknowledged that when he saw photographs of J.B., he believed he might be the father. Brett requested, and the court ordered, DNA testing. The court also ordered that Brett participate in random drug screens and a psychological evaluation. The DHS offered Brett visitation with J.B. and family, safety, risk and permanency (FSRP) services. Brett participated in one DHS family team meeting and visited J.B. a couple of times, but the FSRP workers lost contact with Brett in mid-October 2012.
The juvenile court held a disposition hearing on November 27, 2012. This time Brett did not appear with his attorney, who took no position on behalf of his client. The court observed that Brett had "apparently dropped out of the case." The court ordered that J.B. would remain in foster care.
On February 22, 2013, the State filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of S.K.B., S.B., and Brett, as the "alleged father." Also in late February, Brett reinitiated contact with the DHS case worker. After their meeting, Brett underwent paternity testing, participated in a mental health evaluation, and started supervised visits with J.B. Brett attended eighteen of twenty-five arranged visits with his son between February 25 and ...