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In re D.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 6, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF D.S., K.W., and J.W., Minor Children, D.S., K.W., and J.W., Minor Children, Appellants, K.W., Father, Appellant, K.W., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Louise M. Jacobs, District Associate Judge.

         The mother, one of the fathers, and the three children at issue appeal the juvenile court's ruling terminating the parental rights.

          Paul L. White of Des Moines Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, attorney for appellants minor children.

          Erin M. Carr of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Lisa A. Allison of Allison Law Firm L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

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

          Kimberly S. Ayotte of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         Three children-D.S., born in 2002; K.W., born in 2004; and J.W., born in 200-are the subject of the juvenile court's termination of the parental rights of the mother and the two separate fathers. K.H. is the biological father of D.S.; he has not appealed. The three children, their mother, and the biological father of K.W. and J.W. (who is also the stepfather to D.S.)[1] have appealed the juvenile court's ruling.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with this family in October 2015[2] based on allegations the mother was using methamphetamine while caring for the children. The mother agreed to the application of a sweat patch, which returned a positive result for methamphetamine. The father was serving a prison sentence at the time, and the mother was the children's only caregiver. There were also concerns surrounding the family's unstable housing.

         Then, in November, the mother was arrested and remained in jail for robbery in the second degree;[3] the mother agreed to the official removal of the boys from her care.

         It appears the appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) made an oral motion to bifurcate the roles of GAL and attorney to the children at the November 20 removal hearing.[4] See Iowa Code § 232.89(4) (2015). In the removal order, the court included a note under "OTHER" stating, "Motion to bifurcate is granted." The children have continued to have a separate GAL and an attorney throughout the proceedings.[5]

         After the mother was released from jail in late November, she had an unstable living situation. She was employed only intermittently, and she refused to obtain a mental-health evaluation or to consider attending therapy. The mother completed a substance-abuse evaluation, which recommended extended outpatient treatment, but the mother did not follow through.

         The father was paroled from prison into a halfway house in the summer of 2016.

         In October, the coordinator of the halfway house reported to DHS the father had been "violence free" while in the facility, had completed treatment for his addiction to alcohol, was attending AA meetings twice per week, and was employed. As instructed, the father had reached out to D.S.'s and K.W.'s therapists and both reported to DHS that it would not be harmful to the children if the father began supervised visits.

         In November, DHS recommended giving the father a six-month extension to work toward reunification; the court adopted the recommendation at the next hearing.

         The father rented an apartment in January 2017, and both he and the ...


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