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In re A.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 17, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.R., K.R., and P.R., Minor Children, J.R., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Tama County, Casey D. Jones, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his three children. AFFIRMED.

          Melissa A. Nine of Nine Law Office, Marshalltown, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Laura A. Eilers of Peglow, O'Hare & See, Marshalltown, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his three children, K.R., born in 2003; A.R., born in 2006; and P.R., born in 2008. He asserts the State did not prove by clear and convincing evidence the grounds to support the termination of his rights and, additionally, the strength of the parent-child bond and the children's preference should have persuaded the court that termination was not in the children's best interest. Because we conclude the evidence supports termination and nothing militates against termination, we affirm the order of the district court.[1]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Most recently the children in this proceeding came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) in the spring of 2015 upon allegations of abuse and denial of critical care perpetrated by the father in the summer and early fall of 2014. The family has a lengthy history with the DHS spanning over ten years, beginning when the oldest, K.R., was just an infant in 2004, and each interaction has consistently involved substance abuse, mental health concerns, and domestic violence perpetrated by the father. The child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) adjudication prior to the current matter closed in April 2014 with the children placed in the father's care and living with the father's parents. However, shortly after the CINA matter closed, the father was kicked out of his parents' house for stealing. The father, who was on probation, tested positive for methamphetamine in September and returned to prison in October. After the father went to prison, the children stayed with several different caregivers, eventually ending up with their maternal grandparents. In March 2015, while living with their maternal grandparents, the children reported to the DHS that they had observed their father abuse substances, they recounted that their father made them participate in criminal activity including theft, and they described the physical abuse they suffered from their father including being spanked with the metal part of a belt. A CINA petition was filed in April, and the matter proceeded to an adjudicatory hearing in July 2015. The court adjudicated the children CINA pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), and (n) (2015). The court did not immediately order removal of the children in light of their voluntary placement with their maternal grandparents, but in January 2016, the court ordered the children to be removed from the grandparents' home and placed in family foster care. The children were placed in the same foster family that they had been in during prior CINA proceedings.

         After the father was released from prison in the spring of 2016, he made great strides to meet the goals established to be reunited with his children. By late summer/early fall of 2016, he had progressed to semi-supervised and unsupervised evening visitation during the week and visitation on the weekend as well. However, in September 2016, he incurred new criminal charges related to an assault on another person with a baseball bat while he was heavily intoxicated, and the foster parents reported the children had increased behavioral issues when visitation with the father was increased. The father missed drug screens starting in October 2016, and then in December, the drug screens provided indicated he was abusing opiates. Also in December, the father's girlfriend reported he became combative and threatening while intoxicated, while the children were present in the home. The father was in a car accident on an icy road while A.R. was a passenger. A.R. reported striking her head on the windshield but not reporting the injury to her father due to concerns about his temper. The father's girlfriend believed he was either still under the influence of some substance or "coming down" off the substance at the time of the accident, and the responding police officer noted the father was displaying odd behavior. The girlfriend also reported the father would crush his pain medication and snort it, and would consume alcohol. His visitations were again moved to supervised.

         The State filed a petition to terminate the father's rights in October 2016, and the matter proceeded to a two-day hearing on February 1 and 22, 2017. After the father's former girlfriend testified on the first day of the hearing, charges were filed against the father for criminal mischief in the third degree and tampering with a witness-the former girlfriend-after it was alleged he shot out the windows of her car with a BB gun. After hearing the evidence, the district court terminated the father's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (f), and (i) (2016). The father appeals.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         Our review of the termination of parental rights proceeding is de novo. In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014). In reviewing the district court's ruling, we give weight to its factual findings, especially those findings involving witness credibility, but we are not necessarily bound by them. Id. Our primary ...


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