IN THE INTEREST OF M.M., Minor Child, M.K., Father, Appellant, T.M., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Seymour, District Associate Judge.
appeal the termination of their parental rights. AFFIRMED ON
R. Anderson of The Law Office of Karmen Anderson, Des Moines,
for appellant father.
P. O'Toole of Law Office Shane P. O'Toole, Des
Moines, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Garbis Nolan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
February 6, 2016, the mother of M.M., born in late 2014, left
the child with his father, stating she would return the next
day for M.M. She did not." See In re M.M., No.
16-1685, 2016 WL 7395788, at *1 (Iowa App. Dec. 21, 2016)
(affirming the juvenile court's order placing the child
in the care of other suitable persons, following an appeal by
the State). The father contacted the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) four months later and stated "he 'did
not care to keep the child.'" Id. The
father was "stressed by [the child's] behaviors and
had concerns that [the child] was not actually his biological
son." "The father met with a DHS child protective
worker the next day, gave the worker the mother's contact
information, and left M.M. in the care of the DHS."
child's therapist reported that since being left in the
care of the DHS, the child had
lived in [three] different foster homes. He was first placed
with his mother's sister and then with his mother's
cousin. He lived at each placement for about a month and a
half. It was reported that the removal from aunt and cousin
was voluntary, and they reported they could not handle [the
child's] behaviors. . . . [The child] has been living in
a non-kinship care foster placement since [September 2016].
[The child's foster] mother reports that [the child] used
to panic when the worker picked him up for visits, but he has
been doing better. [The child] also has some problems with
anger, and his foster mother reports that she does not think
[the child] knows what to do when he gets mad. She believes
that [the child] gets frustrated because he cannot
communicate his needs. [The child's] speech is delayed,
and he does not yet use words to communicate. He still
babbles as his main form of communication. Foster mom reports
that she is working on baby sign language with him on her own
to help him communicate. There are concerns about [the
child's] attachment since he has changed placements so
often and has had several caregivers.
were offered to the parents for reunification; the mother did
not participate. The father, though he participated in visits
with the child and some of the child's therapy sessions,
did not seem to truly understand why the DHS continued to be
involved in his life. Although he was the one to leave the
child with the DHS, he believed the child's attachment
issues were caused by the DHS. He did not believe the child
needed therapy or had any behavioral issues.
the parents' lack of participation and progress, the
State sought termination of the parents' parental rights.
A termination-of-parental-rights hearing was held in April
2017. Thereafter, the juvenile court, utilizing the statutory
framework of Iowa Code chapter 232 (2017), issued a thorough
order determining the parents' parental rights should be
terminated. See In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219-20
(Iowa 2016) (discussing the three-step analysis the juvenile
court must employ in termination-of-parental-rights
proceedings). The court found the State established the
ground for termination under section 232.116(1)(h) as to both
parents by clear and convincing evidence, summarizing:
Despite the extensive services offered, neither parent has
corrected the situation which led to the removal and
subsequent adjudication. The court notes this case is unusual
and the parenting deficiencies are not as obvious as a parent
who repeatedly tests positive for methamphetamine; however,
the lifelong impact and consequences of their parenting
deficiencies are no less serious and likely more difficult to
remedy. The child's therapist has indicated the
child's inability to form healthy attachment is directly
attributable to parenting by the father and the mother. Both
parents have failed to take any accountability for the impact
their inadequate parenting has caused this child. Neither
parent has demonstrated an interest in understanding the
child's emotional needs or his need for stability or
consistency. The father has clearly stated he would not have
the child continue to engage in therapy if the child was in
his care. The mother has never even made the effort to
contact the child's therapist. The child's therapist
indicated it is crucial for the child to have a stable
environment and the longer permanency is delayed the harder
it will be for him to form healthy attachments, both now and