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In re K.J.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 11, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF K.J., T.J., L.J., and I.J., Minor Children, L.J., Father, Appellant, N.D., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

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

          Eric W. Manning of Manning Law Office, P.L.L.C., Urbandale, for appellant father.

          William E. Sales III of Sales Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          Cole Joseph Mayer of Mayer Law, PLLC, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The mother and father of four children separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. Both parents assert the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence the statutory grounds for termination, primarily that the children could not be returned to the parents at the present time. The mother also asserts termination is not in the children's best interests and that the record should have been reopened to include additional post-hearing information. The father asserts he should have been given additional time to work towards reunification and that he has a bond with the children, which should preclude termination.[1] On our de novo review, and agreeing with the district court's fact finding and conclusions on all issues raised, we affirm.[2] In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016) (noting our de novo standard of review).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in July 2015, upon allegations the father was using methamphetamine in the home when the children were present. He tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine and also admitted to his use of cocaine and Adderall. A denial of critical care was founded as to the father. The mother was pregnant at the time with I.J. and claimed no knowledge of the father's drug use. The children were removed from the father's care shortly thereafter. The mother signed a safety plan, agreeing she would not allow the father to be around the children unsupervised. The children were adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA) on October 2, 2015. The children remained in the care of the mother until they were removed in January 2016 after it was reported she too had used methamphetamine with the children present and she was allowing the father unsupervised contact with the children. Intensive services were offered to the parents with partial success. After a two-day hearing in May 2017, the district court terminated the parental rights of both parents.

         II. Father's Appeal

         The father asserts the State failed to prove the fourth element of Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) and (h)[3], claiming his drug use alone is insufficient to show "some harm" to the children. See Iowa Code § 232.102.[4] He also asserts he should have been given an additional six months to work towards reunification as he is currently working on achieving sobriety and the bond he has with the children should preclude termination.

         In early March 2016-several months after the children were removed from his care-the father was arrested on drug charges. He attended residential substance abuse treatment in April on pretrial release. In June, he pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to deliver. In August, judgment was deferred, and he was placed on supervised probation for two years. In November, while denying any drug use, a report of probation violations was filed, which included positive drug screenings for methamphetamine on September 14, October 13 and October 25, one full year after the children were removed from his care. After stipulating to the violations, the father was again incarcerated, where he remained before entering another residential substance abuse treatment program in early February 2017. By the time of the May 2017 termination hearing, the father had participated in four substance abuse treatment programs. He was "successfully" discharged from one of those programs, yet relapsed and later began another program. His claim at the termination hearing was essentially that his success only part of the way through this latest residential program should demonstrate that ...


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