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In re R.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF R.M., Minor Child, T.B., Mother, Appellant, I.M., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Steven J. Holwerda, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal from the juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their child, who is a member of an Indian tribe.

          Deborah L. Johnson of Deborah L. Johnson Law Office, P.C., Altoona, for appellant mother.

          Nicholas A. Bailey of Bailey Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Altoona, and Jane K. Odland of Odland Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Newton, for appellant father.

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

          Meegan M. Keller of Keller Law Office, P.C., Altoona, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal from the juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their child, R.M., who is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.[1] They both argue (1) the State failed to prove the statutory grounds for termination; (2) termination is not in their child's best interests; (3) the juvenile court should have granted them an additional six months to work toward reunification with their child; and (4) exceptions to termination exist because the child is placed with a relative and shares a bond with her parents. Upon our de novo review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The family first came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in September 2015, due to allegations the parents were using illegal drugs while caring for their child. Subsequently, concerns were raised about domestic violence between the parents. In October, the juvenile court entered an order removing the child from the parents' custody and placing the child with her maternal grandmother.[2] In December, the court adjudicated R.M. a child in need of assistance (CINA).

         In October 2016, the court held a combined permanency and termination hearing. At the hearing, the father testified he had a lengthy history of using illegal drugs, had never provided a clean drug screen for DHS, had last used illegal drugs three months prior, and had not completed any substance-abuse treatment program. He further testified he did not provide financial assistance for the child to the maternal grandmother because the grandmother had not requested it. Additionally, the father admitted he had criminal charges pending against him at that time and he had not held stable employment during the pendency of the CINA case. The mother testified she also had a history of using illegal drugs and had never completed the recommended substance-abuse treatment. She admitted she did not obtain the court-ordered mental-health evaluation. The mother also had not had stable housing or employment during the underlying CINA action. Finally, both parents admitted R.M. could not be returned to their care and custody at the time of the termination hearing.

         In November, the juvenile court terminated the mother's and the father's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h). Both parents filed motions to enlarge or amend the court's factual findings and conclusions of law, which the court denied. The mother and father then appealed the court's termination order.

         In February 2017, the supreme court reversed the juvenile court's order and remanded the case "for presentation of expert testimony that will provide the juvenile court with knowledge of the social and cultural aspects of Indian life to diminish the risk of ...


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