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In re P.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF P.S. and L.S., Minor Children, E.S., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

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

          Carrie K. Bryner, Cedar Rapids, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Kimberly A. Opatz of Linn County Advocate, Cedar Rapids, 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 two children, P.S., born 2012, and L.S., born 2015. He challenges the sufficiency of the State's proof, as well as the finding termination was in the children's best interests. On our de novo review, we affirm. See In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010).

         The children were adjudicated in need of assistance in July 2015, due to ongoing substance abuse within the home.[1] L.S. was born just months earlier, testing positive for THC in her system. A hair stat test on P.S. was also positive for THC (ingestion). The father's drug test in June 2016 was negative, but the test conducted in December 2015 came back positive for cocaine. A second hair stat test on P.S. in April 2016 came back positive for amphetamines, cocaine, and THC.

         The children were removed from the home on March 31, 2016, and remained out of the home at the time of the termination hearing. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) offered the father services to address his substance abuse, as well as his mental health, issues, but he failed to participate in recommended evaluations or treatments for either problem.

         The district court terminated the father's parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (f) (2017) as it pertains to P.S. and (h) as it pertains to L.S. "[W]e may affirm the juvenile court's order on any ground we find supported by the record." In re A.B., 815 N.W.2d 764, 774 (Iowa 2012). We will address paragraphs (f) and (h) as the father only takes issue with the nearly identical language of the common element of each, which requires clear and convincing evidence that at the present time the child cannot be returned to the custody of the child's parents. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f)(4), (h)(4).

         The district court found:

[The father] has made no reasonable efforts to assume care of the children despite being given the opportunity to do so. From 9/14/16 to 3/14/17 he voluntarily chose not to see his children at all. Despite knowing that on 1/20/17 [the mother] had consented to the termination of her parental rights, he did not step up for his children. Instead he waited almost two months before asking to see them. There is no evidence that [the father] has suddenly had a credible epiphany that would lead this court to believe that additional time would result in new or different behavior such that his children would be safe in his care in the next few months. [The father] testified that he now knows he made a mistake by ignoring his children for months ...

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