IN THE INTEREST OF G.E., C.E., and J.E., Minor Children, K.E., Mother, Appellant, J.E., Father, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Terry L. Wilson, District Associate Judge.
A mother and father appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights.
Nancy A.S. Trotter, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
Jared C. Harmon, Des Moines, for appellant father.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Kevin Brownell, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.
Charles Fuson of the Youth Law Center, Des Moines, for minor children.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.
A mother and father appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights to their three children, contending clear and convincing evidence does not support either statutory ground for termination. The mother also contends the court failed to consider the statutory exception to termination based on a strong parent-child bond. The father also contends termination is not in the best interests of the children and the court should have considered a guardianship. We affirm on both appeals.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
The mother and father have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, and criminal activity. Two prior child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) cases were closed, and the children were returned to the mother's care after the mother successfully completed substance abuse treatment and other case plan requirements demonstrating her ability to parent the children safely. She relapsed again in December 2011.
The children—ages five, six, and eight—were removed again in April 2012 and adjudicated CINA in May under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), and (n) (2011). Throughout this case, they have been in the care of a family friend. The mother was arrested on drug-related charges in July, her probation was revoked in September, and she remained in jail until December. Upon her release, she entered inpatient substance abuse treatment, which she successfully completed. She entered the women's correctional facility in Des Moines in January 2013, successfully completed programming there, and was released on probation in April. By the time of the termination hearing in June, the mother had employment and housing. Except for when she was in jail, the mother participated in supervised visitation.
The father was in jail seven times between the children's removal in April 2012 and the termination hearing in June 2013. At the time of the termination hearing, he had just begun serving a two-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance, second offense. When not in jail, he participated in supervised visitation, although not as regularly as the mother. He entered inpatient substance abuse treatment in March 2013, but left after two days.
Following a permanency hearing in April 2013, the court directed the county attorney to file petitions to terminate both parents' rights. The petitions alleged termination was proper under section 232.116(1)(d) and (f) ...