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In re Z.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF Z.S., Minor Child, B.S., Father, Appellant, K.B., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan C. Cox, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their four-year-old son. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Ryan R. Gravett of Oliver Gravett Law Firm, Windsor Heights, for appellant father.

          Thomas P. Graves of Graves Law Firm, P.C., Clive, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Karl Wolle of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         A mother, Kelsey, and a father, Brad, separately appeal the juvenile court order terminating their parental relationship with their four-year-old son, Z.S. Kelsey argues the State failed to prove a statutory basis for termination, termination was not in Z.S.'s best interests, and the juvenile court should have declined to terminate because the maternal grandmother had custody of Z.S. Brad contends the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to make reasonable efforts to provide reunification services by not offering visitation while he was incarcerated. He also argues termination was not in Z.S.'s best interests. Upon our independent review of the record, [1] we find clear and convincing evidence supporting the conclusions of the district court.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In November 2014, one-and-a-half-year-old Z.S. came to the attention of the DHS through a report Kelsey and Brad were using methamphetamine. Both parents tested positive for the drug, and Kelsey also tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of marijuana. Kelsey immediately entered inpatient treatment at House of Mercy with Z.S., but she left after three days, instead opting for an outpatient treatment program. Brad too entered outpatient substance-abuse treatment, and he reached maximum benefits from the program in late March. His provider recommended continuing care, in which Brad participated inconsistently. Both parents completed psychological assessments resulting in recommendations for therapy. Kelsey did not seek treatment; Brad attended therapy sporadically.

         The juvenile court adjudicated Z.S. a child in need of assistance (CINA) on April 21, 2015, following an uncontested hearing. The court determined Kelsey was no longer using illegal drugs and allowed Z.S. to remain in her care. Brad remained in the home, but the DHS required his contact with Z.S. to be supervised by Kelsey.

         Following the adjudication, Kelsey successfully completed substance-abuse treatment. But as time went on, conflict between Kelsey and Brad intensified. The two separated in early November 2015, shortly after Brad was arrested for driving without a license. On November 9, at Kelsey's request, the district court issued an order prohibiting Brad from having contact with her.

         After receiving notice of the no-contact order, Brad sent text messages to Kelsey and DHS social workers leading them to believe he had attempted to commit suicide. Brad, who had a history of suicidal ideation, eventually admitted himself to the local hospital for mental-health treatment. But he did not seek regular treatment after his release.

         Although the no-contact order remained in effect, in February 2016, Brad moved back in with Kelsey. Kelsey also began allowing Brad to have unsupervised contact with Z.S. Brad was arrested for violating the no-contact order in March 2016. Z.S. was in his care at the time. As a result of the arrest, the district court revoked Brad's probation for possession of a controlled substance as an habitual offender, and he remained incarcerated for the balance of the case.[2]

         The juvenile court ordered Z.S.'s removal from Kelsey's care that same month. The DHS eventually placed Z.S. with his ...


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