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In re W.A.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF W.A., C.A., B.A., and H.A., Minor children, A.A., Mother, Appellant, N.A., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Mark F. Schlenker, District Associate Judge.

         The mother and father appeal separately the termination of their parental rights.

         AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Amanda M. Bartusek of Stoltze & Stoltze, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Bryan P. Webber of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Nancy L. Pietz of Pietz Law Office, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child, W.A.

          Mary Kathryn Miller of Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children, C.A., B.A., and H.A.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         The mother and father appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights to their four children, who at the time of the termination hearing ranged in ages from thirteen to three years old. Each parent claims the following: the statutory grounds for termination have not been met, a six-month extension to continue working toward reunification is warranted, termination is not in the best interests of the children, and the court should have placed the children in a guardianship with the paternal grandmother.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         This family has been previously involved with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and the juvenile court due to both parents' abuse of methamphetamine. In April 2012, when DHS was attempting to assess the safety of the family home, the father fired a gun at the car of a DHS worker as she was leaving the family property. The children were then removed from the parents' home. The father was charged with several crimes and ultimately pled guilty to intimidation with a dangerous weapon. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment, which began in late September 2014. The mother participated in drug-rehabilitation treatment and other services, and the children were able to return to the family home. The case was successfully closed in early 2014.

         DHS became involved with the family again in April 2015, after local law enforcement alerted DHS to their belief the mother was using methamphetamine. The father was incarcerated at this time and remained incarcerated throughout the case. DHS attempted to implement a safety plan that would allow the children to remain in the family home, but the mother refused to provide a sample for urinalysis (UA). All four children were removed on April 24, 2015. The youngest child's hair was tested and was positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine.

         The termination hearing took place over four dates: June 2, 3, and 23, and July 1, 2016. At the hearing, the mother admitted that although she had denied using methamphetamine from the time the children were removed until April 2016-when she began outpatient drug-rehabilitation treatment-she had used the drug "the majority of the month" in April 2015, "the majority of the month" in February 2016, and once in April 2016. The mother's most recent positive drug test occurred on April 29, 2016. The mother was arrested on two separate occasions in 2016, and the criminal charges were still pending at the time of the hearing. The mother was without employment. The electricity to the family home had only recently been turned back on at the time of the first couple days of the termination hearing, and it was off again by the final day; the water to the home had also been turned off. The mother missed four visits with the children in the month of June, and she started seeing a new therapist between the hearing dates.

         The mother testified that she would like to have the children returned to her, but she admitted she was not in a position for that to occur at the time of the ...


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