Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.
A father appeals the termination of his parental rights.
William E. Sales III of Sales Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Susan Cox, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Patrick O'Bryan of O'Bryan Law Firm, Des Moines, for mother.
Nicole Garbis Nolan and Joseph Strong of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorneys and guardians ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
An incarcerated father, Dale, appeals an order terminating his parental rights to his nine-year-old daughter A.K., whom he has met only once. He concedes the State proved the statutory grounds for termination, but contends severing his legal tie to A.K. is not in her best interests. Like the juvenile court, we defer to the opinion of A.K.'s therapist and the report of the court appointed special advocate (CASA) in finding termination to be in the child's best interests.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
A.K. was born in September 2004. At the time of the birth, A.K.'s mother was married to Eric, who is her legal father. In July 2010, a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory exploded at the home where A.K. lived with her mother. A.K. and her sister went to live with Eric. The mother was convicted and incarcerated for manufacturing methamphetamine.
In January 2011, the juvenile court adjudicated A.K. as a child in need of assistance (CINA), based on allegations of sexual abuse by one older sibling against another while in Eric's custody. The Department of Human Services (DHS) placed A.K. in foster care. In February 2011, it came to the attention of the juvenile court that there was a material question of A.K.'s paternity. The court ordered testing of a putative father, who was involved in the lab explosion with the mother, but he did not turn out to be the biological father. In April 2011, the court ordered paternity testing of Dale, who was confirmed as A.K.'s biological father. He was incarcerated for burglary at the time of the testing, so his initial contact with A.K. was through letters.
During 2011, Eric engaged in therapy and complied with other services recommended by the DHS. Because of his efforts, A.K. was returned to his care in January 2012. But that placement was short-lived. Eric struggled to maintain consistent supervision of two older siblings, as well as A.K. and another sister. A.K. was again removed from Eric's home in May 2012. In October 2012, the juvenile court found A.K. "endured a lot" going into foster care, and found Eric had "made changes and engaged in requisite therapeutic and protective services sufficiently since end of spring 2012."
Dale was paroled from prison in December 2012. While on parole he briefly met with A.K. for the first and only time in early 2013. Dale violated his parole in March 2013 by verbally abusing a female employee of the work release center and he ...