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In re J.J.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.J., Minor Child, C.J., Mother, Appellant, B.J., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, William S. Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother and a father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Mary Baird Krafka of Krafka Law Office, Ottumwa, for appellant mother.

          Bret R. Larson of Orsborn, Milani, Mitchell & Goedken, L.L.P., Ottumwa, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Special Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Sarah L. Wenke of Wenke Law Office, Ottumwa, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          DOYLE, Judge.

         A mother and a father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. They argue they were denied procedural due process and challenge the State's proof of the requirements for termination. Because the parents were afforded due process and the State proved each of the prerequisites for termination, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in December 2015 due to concerns that the mother and the father were using methamphetamine in the home while caring for the child. Both the mother and the father have a long history of methamphetamine use and tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine during the child protective assessment. The child was placed in the home of a maternal family member and the parents agreed to participate in substance-abuse treatment. Although the mother and the father were initially allowed to remain in the home with the child, the DHS asked them to leave the home in January 2016 due to concerns about their continued methamphetamine use. The parents never resumed care of the child.

         In February 2016, the juvenile court adjudicated the child to be a child in need of assistance (CINA). The DHS provided the mother and the father services to address their substance abuse, but neither completed the recommended treatment. The mother and the father also failed to obtain mental-health treatment, employment, or stable housing during the CINA proceedings, and in January 2017, they were living with a registered sex offender.

         In February 2017, the State filed a petition to terminate the mother's and the father's parental rights. At the termination hearing the following month, the father admitted, "There's no excuse whatsoever why we're not being parents that we're supposed to be being at our age, at all." Although he had recently obtained a substance-abuse evaluation and claimed he was prepared to follow through with treatment, he had only just begun the process. The father asked the court to continue termination for six more months so he could undergo shoulder surgery and get a job, but he also testified that "the shoulder surgery is going to knock me out of work for like six months straight" and that six months was "the bare minimum" of time he would need for recovery, which he claimed was typically a year.

         The mother testified at the termination hearing that she had never successfully completed a substance-abuse-treatment program. She left a residential treatment program after one night because of anxiety and quit outpatient treatment after approximately two weeks because she was not comfortable talking in front of people. Tellingly, the mother testified she does not think she needs substance-abuse treatment. Although she has a number of mental-health diagnoses that are treated with prescription medication, she testified that she stopped taking her medication when she was sixteen because she did not think it was helpful, and she was not taking any medication at the time of the termination hearing. When asked about her employment plans, the mother testified she planned to "[s]tart finding a job, " admitting that she had not yet obtained one because she had "not doing everything that . . . [she] could to find one." For instance, the mother ...


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