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In re I.F.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF I.F., J.K., L.K., and T.K., Minor Children, J.F., Mother, Appellant.

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

         The mother appeals the juvenile court's order terminating parental rights to her four children, I.F., J.K., L.K., and T.K. AFFIRMED.

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

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathrine S. Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Scott J. Nelson, Dubuque, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         The mother appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) and (h) (2016). She argues the State failed to satisfy the statutory grounds for termination, reasonable efforts were not made to reunite the children with the mother, and termination is not in the best interests of the children. Because the mother refuses to acknowledge the abuse that led to the children's issues, the home is unsafe for the children's return, and the children are improving under alternative care, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         J.K., L.K., and T.K. are siblings from the mother's previous marriage, which dissolved in 2008.[1] J.K was born in 2006, L.K. in 2005, and T.K. in 2004. In 2009, the mother married Michael, the children's current stepfather. Michael is also I.F.'s legal father.[2] I.F. was born in 2013. Michael has four children from another relationship who have lived in the household at various times.

         Social service departments for Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois have been involved with this family for quite some time. The first instance of involvement with social services arose in 2003 when Michael was involved with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for domestic violence issues between him and his then-wife. DCFS placed Michael's children in foster care for approximately six months. In 2004, Michael had another child, and DCFS issued a risk-of-harm notice for the child based on the family's history with services. In 2005, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois DCFS raised concerns about domestic violence between Michael and his former wife. Both parties denied the allegations. In 2008, Michael divorced his wife, and in 2009, he married the mother.

         In September 2010, the parties moved to Indiana. The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) issued a founded abuse report against the mother and Michael for improper supervision. Another founded abuse report was issued a month later against the mother and Michael for improper supervision. The reports indicated the children were observed numerous times at night, unsupervised, playing on a road. DCS removed the children for lack of supervision, but they were eventually returned. In 2011, Michael filed for divorce from the mother, but he later dismissed the action. The family moved back to Illinois.

         Shortly after the move, Illinois DCFS issued a report of abuse for Michael's child, S.F., [3] in October 2012. In January 2013, I.F. was born and shortly thereafter, the family moved to Iowa. In September 2013, DHS issued a founded physical abuse report against the mother and Michael for hitting T.K. and L.K. with a paddle, which resulted in bruises. Two months later, DHS issued an unfounded report after allegations that one of Michael's children punched T.K. in the face. After an uncontested dispositional hearing, T.K. was placed in the mother's care, subject to DHS supervision, and the court adopted the DHS case plan, which required the mother to remain in Iowa.

         In February 2014, DHS issued a founded report of sexual abuse based on two of Michael's children sexually abusing T.K. and L.K. A week later, DHS issued a not-confirmed report of physical abuse alleging Michael struck J.K. in the back with a paddle. Michael's children who were accused of sexual abuse were moved to their mother's house. In May, the department issued a founded report against the mother and Michael for denial of critical care for failing to provide proper supervision when Michael's ten-year-old child was left supervising the other children. In August, DHS issued a founded abuse report against the mother for hitting T.K. with a belt and clothing hangers. In September, DHS issued a founded child abuse report against Michael for sexually abusing T.K. over several years. Michael was required to leave the family home and not allowed to contact the children under the case plan.

         In September, T.K. was voluntarily placed in foster care by the mother after T.K.'s psychiatric hospitalization due to T.K.'s physically violent behavior in the family home. Reports indicate T.K.'s outburst was behavioral rather than mental, and it was suggested her home environment was contributing to the problem. T.K. had another outburst at her foster home, which led the juvenile court to change her foster placement to another family. Her outbursts, again, were attributed to ...


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