January 11, 2017
IN THE INTEREST OF J.C., Minor child, J.C., Father, Appellant, T.T., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F.
Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
parental rights to their child. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.
A. Sounhein of Lynch Dallas, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for
R. Ramsey-Kacena, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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
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.
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
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 that [the
mother] associates with. They present a huge safety
father's parental rights were terminated under Iowa Code
section 232.116(1)(e) and (f). He does not appeal the
district court's finding as to section 232.116(1)(e). We
therefore affirm those findings as to the statutory elements
supporting termination and need not delve into the grounds
under section 232.116(1)(f). P.L., 778 N.W.2d at 40.
the mother and the father testified they were not ready to
have J.C. in their care at the time of the termination
hearing, but both sought an additional six months to work
towards reunification. The father claims because he was
"at odds" with the DHS, he quit trying to improve
himself and, therefore, he should be given an additional six
months. The evidence, however, is quite to the contrary. The
father refused all drug testing and treatment; was
belligerent, if not threatening, towards the DHS
personnel; and stopped attending visitation several
months before the final termination hearing. He has declined
all other offered services. Moreover, the DHS worker
testified his lack of housing and noncompliance with the many
services offered were indicators that additional time would
not work to improve his situation.
the mother, the DHS worker wrote in her March 2, 2016 report
to the court:
[The mother] has struggled making good decisions regarding
who she interacts with and invites into her home. [She] has
taken minimal responsibility for the poor decisions and will
often blame those she has befriended. This worker feels it is
unlikely [the mother] will be able to make the necessary
changes needed to ensure [J.C.] would be safe in her home.
district court found, "[T]here is no evidence to support
the conclusion that additional time would result in a
different outcome." We agree. The lack of sustained
progress by the mother and the father's noncompliance
with services support the district court's findings.
See Iowa Code § 232.104(2)(b) (requiring a
showing "that the need for removal of the child from the
child's home will no longer exist at the end of the
additional six-month period").
a young child who has overcome many developmental
difficulties since his removal from the home. As the guardian
ad litem noted in a written report dated September 2015,
[J.C.]'s verbal skills have improved dramatically since
being placed in this home. He uses words increasingly to
express his feelings and does not demonstrate significant
cognitive deficits. It is probable that in expanding his
vocabulary and learning how to express himself using words,
[J.C.] is less apt to bang his head in frustration.
agree with the district court that the child's best
interests are to be in a safe and stable environment, which
can only be accomplished with the termination of his
parents' rights. This child's safety and the need for
a permanent home are the "defining elements in a
child's best interest." See In re A.M., 843
N.W.2d 100, 113 (Iowa 2014).
father and mother both claim their parental bond with the
child should preclude termination. The record clearly belies
the father's claim. A DHS provider testified that during
the father's "supervision of [the child], he is not
attentive to [the child] during that hour interaction, they
are not engaging." Coupled with the father's lack of
any contact with the child for several months prior to the
hearing, we agree any bond that may exist between him and the
child is too weak to impede termination. The mother was more
consistent with visitation, and her bond with the child was
more apparent. However, the district court found, "[The
mother's] level of interaction and attention to [J.C.
during the visits] is lacking." We agree. The
mother's lack of progress in resolving her mental health
issues and drug usage, along with the ongoing poor choices
she makes as to who may be in the home, outweigh any bond she
shares with the child who needs safety and stability.
affirm the termination of the mother's and the
father's parental rights.
ON BOTH APPEALS.
 The mother has been involved with the
DHS and has received a host of services since 2003. Her three
older children were all removed from her care; the two oldest
children are now adults.
 He also made a veiled threat as to a
DHS worker's young son.