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In re J.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.M., Minor Child, J.M., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine Dalton Ploof, District Associate Judge.

         The father appeals from the juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to his biological child. AFFIRMED.

          Timothy J. Tupper of Tupper Law Firm, Davenport, for appellant father.

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

          Michael A. Woods of Zamora, Taylor, Woods & Frederick, Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         The father appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating his parental rights to his biological child, J.M. The father does not dispute whether the statutory grounds for termination have been met. Rather, he maintains he should be given additional time to work toward reunification with J.M. and claims termination of his parental rights is not in J.M.'s best interests.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) first became involved with this family in September 2015, before J.M.'s birth. At the time, the family was comprised of J.M.'s mother, [1] the father, and J.M.'s three half-siblings.[2] The department's involvement began after J.M.'s mother took the eight-month-old half-sibling, K.F., to the emergency room because K.F. had limited movement on one-half of her body and her feet were bluish in color. While there, doctors determined K.F. had differently aged rib fractures and was malnourished. The two older children were examined and were found to have bed bug bites and marks indicating frequent blunt-force impacts. The oldest child, A.H., was five years old at the time; she reported the father had been hitting her and the other two children with his hands and with objects-including a coat hanger and a belt. A.H. also reported her mother had been present some of the times the father beat them. J.M.'s three half-siblings were then removed from the parents' care.

         In November 2015, the father was jailed for multiple counts of felony child endangerment. The father was unable to post bond, and he remained in jail on the pending charges.

         J.M. was born in February 2016 and was removed from the parents' care by court order the day after his birth. He was immediately placed in the home of his maternal relatives-the same home in which his half-siblings were placed.

         The father ultimately pled guilty to two counts of felony child endangerment. He received two five-year sentences to be served concurrently. He was able to have two visits with J.M. while he remained in the local jail, but he had no visits after he was transferred to prison in July 2016.

         The termination hearing took place on March 15, 2017. The father appeared telephonically from prison. He testified he had taken a number of courses while incarcerated, including classes geared toward parenting skills and cognitive restructuring. He also testified he was scheduled for parole release in May 2017. His testimony was in conflict with a report to the court filed by the DHS caseworker, which indicated the ...


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