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In re J.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.C., Minor child, J.C., Father, Appellant, T.T., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F. Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Kyle A. Sounhein of Lynch Dallas, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant father.

          Ellen R. Ramsey-Kacena, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathrine S. Miller-Todd (until withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Richard F. Mitvalsky of Gray, Stefani & Mitvalsky, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child, J.C., born in February 2012. Because we find the statutory elements were proved by clear and convincing evidence, no additional time would improve the parents' ability to safely care for the child, the best interests of the child are served by severing the relationships, and no strong parental bond exists so as to impede termination, we affirm.

         The child came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) at the time of his birth because the mother was involved in a child-in-need-of-assistance case involving her older daughter, who remains out of the mother's care.[1] Over the course of the next two and one-half years, the DHS had many concerns as to the safety of this child due to drugs, violence, and inappropriate people being in the home, culminating in the child being removed in October 2014. Subsequently, the child tested positive for ingestion of methamphetamine. After a hearing beginning in December 2015 and concluding in March 2016, the district court terminated the parental rights of both parents by order filed on September 27, 2016.

         We review termination proceedings de novo, determining if the grounds for termination are proved under Iowa Code section 232.116(1) (2015). If the grounds are proved, we apply the factors under section 232.116(2) and, finally, determine if there are any impediments to termination as found in section 232.116(3). In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010).

          The mother asserts the statutory provisions of Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f)(4) were not proved. She claims she had obtained stable housing and was receiving social security disability benefits to support herself and the child. Coupled with her claims of success is her complaint that the DHS and the district court denied her requests to move from fully-supervised to semi-supervised visitation. Because of the mother's long history of mental health problems coupled with drug abuse, certain requirements were made before the DHS would agree to semi-supervised visitation. One of those requirements was that the mother provide consistent clean drug tests. Although the mother completed a substance abuse evaluation, her compliance with drug testing was inconsistent, and therefore, she herself prevented the visits from becoming less supervised.

         The mother made some progress during the pendency of this case, but her steps backward demonstrated her periodic progress was short-lived. On January 12, 2016, the mother pled guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia by possessing a pipe with methamphetamine residue, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.414.

         The DHS provider opined the child could not be returned to the mother, stating, "My concerns would be the lack of drug testing, her history of substance abuse, reports by the provider of being-Well, for one, prescription bottles being collected by the police when they found the meth pipe." Further, "the ongoing concern is the people ...


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