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In re D.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF D.W. and N.W., Minor Children, J.W., Father, Appellant, S.M., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J. Tabor, District Associate Judge.

         A father and a mother appeal separately from the order terminating their parental rights.

          Matthew D. Hatch of Hatch Law Firm, P.C., Bettendorf, for appellant father.

          Judd J. Parker of Parker Law Office, Clinton, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit and Gretchen W. Kraemer (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          J.David Zimmerman, Clinton, for minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ. Tabor, J., takes no part.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         A mother and a father appeal separately from the termination of their parental rights to their two children. Both parents assert the State did not present clear and convincing evidence to support the statutory grounds for termination and termination is not in the children's best interests. Because neither parent has taken any steps to address their substance-abuse issues or to comply with the case plan requirements, we conclude grounds for termination of both parents' rights have been established and termination is in the children's best interests. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

         D.W., age four, and N.W., not yet age one, are the children of the mother and the father, who are unmarried. The department of human services (DHS) became involved with the family when N.W. tested positive for THC and methamphetamine at birth. The children were removed from the parents' care on June 7, 2016. Shortly after removal, D.W. was also tested and found to be positive for methamphetamine.

         The mother entered inpatient substance-abuse treatment in July 2016, but was unsuccessfully discharged in October 2016 after relapsing and using methamphetamine. The mother regularly participated in visitation with the children while in treatment. However, after being unsuccessfully discharged, the mother attended only two visits with the children, the last being November 14, 2016. The mother failed to seek additional substance-abuse treatment, attend parenting meetings, maintain communication with the DHS case manager, address her mental-health issues, appear for requested drug testing, or obtain a residence or employment.

         The father participated in more visits with the children than the mother, but his participation was sporadic. The father missed six visits in October, nine in November, four in December, and eleven in January, for a total of thirty missed visits in the four months before the termination hearing. The father missed some visits after previously confirming that he would attend, which had a detrimental effect on D.W. The father did not attend parenting meetings, obtain a psychological evaluation or mental health therapy, or report for drug testing. The father was incarcerated on a number of occasions throughout the pendency of the case-including at the time of the termination hearing-and had pending criminal charges. The father did not maintain steady employment or a stable residence throughout DHS involvement and did not have a residence at the time of the termination hearing.

         The termination hearing was held February 2, 2017. In a February 6 order, the district court terminated the mother's parental rights to D.W. pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), (f), and (I) (2017). It terminated the mother's parental rights to N.W. pursuant to section 232.116(1)(b), (d), (e), (h), and (l). The father's parental rights as to D.W. were terminated under section 232.116(1)(d), (e), (f), ...


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