IN THE INTEREST OF K.J., T.J., L.J., and I.J., Minor Children, L.J., Father, Appellant, N.D., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Seymour, District Associate Judge.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
parental rights to their four children. AFFIRMED ON
W. Manning of Manning Law Office, P.L.L.C., Urbandale, for
William E. Sales III of Sales Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Joseph Mayer of Mayer Law, PLLC, Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
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. On our de novo
review, and agreeing with the district court's fact
finding and conclusions on all issues raised, we
affirm. In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219
(Iowa 2016) (noting our de novo standard of review).
Background Facts and Proceedings
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.
father asserts the State failed to prove the fourth element
of Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) and (h), claiming his
drug use alone is insufficient to show "some harm"
to the children. See Iowa Code §
232.102. 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.
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 ...