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In re C.L.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 5, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF C.L., H.L., M.S., and M.S., Minor children, E.L., Mother, Appellant, R.S., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Gregg R. Rosenbladt, Judge.

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

          Dylan J. Thomas, Mason City, for appellant mother. Michael J. Moeller of Sorensen & Moeller Law Office, Clear Lake, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and David M. Van Compernolle, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          David A. Grooters of Pappajohn, Shriver, Eide & Nielsen, P.C., Mason City, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

          VOGEL, JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their children. Finding the State proved the grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the children's best interest, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         C.L., born September 2000; H.L., born January 2004; M.E.S., born November 2001; and M.J.S.[1], born October 2005, came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2007, upon allegations of physical abuse and domestic violence. Over the course of the next few years, many services were offered, specifically targeting the mental health and substance abuse of the parents along with efforts to keep the children safe. The children were removed from the home at different times, but in September 2014, H.L., M.E.S., and M.J.S. were returned to the mother's care, and their child-in-need-of-assistance cases were closed in January 2015 due to progress demonstrated by the mother. C.L. was returned to the mother's care in May 2015.

         However, it was not long before the mother became resistant to services, including refusing to let the child protective worker enter parts of her home and garage. In August 2015, the DHS became aware the mother's paramour and another man were living in the mother's home and there were allegations the mother was smoking marijuana with her paramour. The mother denied use but refused to participate in a drug screen requested by the DHS. Meanwhile, there were reports the children were being exposed to pornography and were engaging in sexual activity with one another.

         On August 31, 2015, the children were removed from the home and placed in foster care. The mother was ordered to cooperate with the DHS. In September 2015, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine; she admitted to using but stated that her paramour was no longer living with her, and she refused to reengage in mental-health counseling. In October 2015, the child protective worker observed signs of drug use in the mother and noted her paramour was still living in the home. In January 2016, the mother began participating in family preservation court. Through March 2016, she provided several drug screens that were positive for methamphetamine and/or marijuana. She began inpatient substance-abuse treatment and was discharged unsuccessfully multiple times before ultimately completing inpatient treatment in May 2016. She transitioned to outpatient services and resumed her relationship with her paramour.

         The mother continued to provide positive drug screens through July 2016, while denying use. Also in July 2016, her paramour was arrested for domestic abuse assault. The mother reported her paramour had attempted to strangle her and threw a pocket knife at her. In addition, throughout the pendency of the case, the mother's employment has been sporadic and her housing situation unreliable.

         The father's participation in services has been inconsistent, and he has been resistant to substance-abuse and mental-health treatment. The father has had intermittent periods of supervised visitations with M.J.S. but has not consistently participated in services since the DHS became involved in 2007 based on abuse allegations against him.

         On July 7, 2016, after several years of offered services, the State filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental rights to all the children and the father's parental rights to his two children-M.E.S. and M.J.S. The matter first came on for hearing on October 28 and concluded on October 31. On December 16, the district court ordered both the mother's and the father's parental rights terminated under Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(e) and (f) (2016). Following the mother's and father's motions under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2), the court enlarged its ...


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