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In re M.M.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 2, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF M.M., Minor Child, J.M., Mother, Appellant, S.M., Father, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Iowa County, Russell G. Keast, District Associate Judge.

A mother and father separately challenge the termination of their parental rights to their son.

Erek P. Sittig of Neuzil, Sanderson & Sigafoose, P.C., Iowa City, for appellant-mother.

Kelly D. Steele, Cedar Rapids, for appellant-father.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Janet Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, Tim McMeen, County Attorney, for appellee.

Deborah Skelton, Walford, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.

TABOR, J.

M.M. was born prematurely in October 2011, weighing just over three pounds. The doctors have diagnosed him with intrauterine growth retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome, atrial septal and ventricular septal defects, failure to thrive, as well as cognitive and physical development delays. His parents both have a long history of substance abuse and struggle to grasp the complexity of their son's health problems. The juvenile court ordered the termination of their parental rights, and both parents filed appeals. The mother and father allege the same three bases for reversal: (1) the juvenile court wrongly admitted certain exhibits at the termination hearing; (2) the statutory grounds for termination were not supported by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) termination is not in M.M.'s best interests.

In our de novo review[1] we conclude the juvenile court properly considered the State's exhibits, the parents did not preserve error on their claim M.M. could be presently placed back in their care, and severing parental ties so that M.M. may be adopted was in his best interests.

I. Facts and Procedural History

The mother, Jessica, has been interacting with the Department of Human Services (DHS) for almost a decade. The DHS opened child in need of assistance (CINA) cases for her son J.H. in 2004 and her daughter S.H. in 2006.[2] The juvenile court ordered these children removed from their parents' care because of substance abuse and domestic violence in the home. The DHS provided services to the family for nearly three years, but Jessica did not make progress in managing either her addiction or violence issues. The court placed her son and daughter in the permanent care of their maternal grandparents.

M.M.'s father, Scott, also has had prior involvement with the DHS. Scott and Jessica's daughter, L.M., was born in September 2008 with low birth weight and tested positive for the presence of marijuana; she was also diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. L.M. was removed from her parents' care shortly after her birth. The parents did not obtain substance abuse evaluations and rarely visited their daughter. Scott and Jessica consented to the termination of their parental rights to L.M., who was adopted by her maternal grandparents in September 2010.

In October 2011, Jessica gave birth to M.M., the child at issue in this case. M.M. weighed 3.14 pounds and suffered from congenital heart defects. Doctors also diagnosed M.M. with a chromosomal abnormality associated with delayed cognitive development, speech delay, mental retardation, and physical ...


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