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In re J.K.G.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 12, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF J.K.G., Minor Child, J.R., Mother, Appellant, R.A., Father, Appellant

Editorial Note:

This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Carroll County, Adria Kester, District Associate Judge. A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their special-needs daughter.

Robert E. Peterson, Carroll, for appellant-mother.

Mark J. Rasmussen, Jefferson, for appellant-father.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John C. Werden, County Attorney, and Erik Howe, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Martha Sibbel of Law Offices of Martha Sibbel, P.L.C., Carroll, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

OPINION

TABOR, J.

J.K.G. is a child with special needs related to low birth weight and early hospitalization for failure to thrive. J.K.G. is now almost two years old and suffers developmental delays and difficulty with muscle development and vision. The question in this appeal is whether either of the parents is able to offer the full-time, specialized care J.K.G. will require to reach her full potential, including nutritional, optical and physical therapies.

The juvenile court decided neither parent could muster the exceptional parenting skills" required to meet J.K.G.'s needs and found it in her best interests to terminate their parental rights. In separate appeals, both the mother, Joni, and the father, Ricardo, contend the State failed to present clear and convincing evidence for termination of their rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h)(4) (2013). They also argue severing ties is not in the child's best interests, given their strong bonds with J.K.G. See Iowa Code § § 232.116(2), (3). We admire the sincere desire to reunite with J.K.G. shown by both Joni and Ricardo, but ultimately we see the realities of raising J.K.G. to be too demanding for even the best efforts of her natural parents.

J.K.G. was born in April 2012, weighing only four pounds, thirteen ounces. She was hospitalized twice in her first ten weeks for malnutrition, dehydration, and failure to thrive. J.K.G.'s mother, Joni, has learning disabilities and required remedial instruction in the proper care and feeding of the baby during the hospital stays.[1]

J.K.G. weighed seven pounds, fourteen ounces when released on July 5, 2012. During the next five days in her mother's care, J.K.G. lost eight ounces. The baby's skin took on a grey color, and she had little muscle tone, leaving her unable to lift her head or control her arm and legs. Medical professionals viewed the baby's condition as life threatening. The Department of Human Services (DHS) sought and received an emergency removal order on July 11, 2012. The baby began to gain weight immediately in her foster care placement.

The juvenile court adjudicated J.K.G. as a child in need of assistance (CINA) on August 22, 2012. The court ordered a mental health evaluation for Joni and paternity testing for Ricardo, whom Joni identified as the child's father. Testing confirmed Ricardo was J.K.G.'s father. Joni and Ricardo could not get along, so the DHS provided supervised visitation sessions, separately for each parent, several times per week. J.K.G. required physical therapy to ...


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