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In re J.E.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 6, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.E., Minor Child, C.H., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, James B. Malloy, District Associate Judge.

         An incarcerated father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his one-year-old daughter.

          Matthew A. Mauk of Mauk Law Office, Ames, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Special Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Ashley Michelle Sparks of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer and Reese, P.C., West Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         A father, Caleb, appeals the termination of his parental rights in his one-year-old daughter, J.E. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) took custody of J.E. based on her mother's methamphetamine use. On appeal, Caleb challenges the statutory grounds for termination, arguing J.E. was never removed from his care because he was incarcerated for her whole life.

         After independently reviewing the record, we reach the same conclusion as the juvenile court regarding the termination of Caleb's parental rights.[1] The State satisfied the removal element of the statute. Moreover, Caleb cannot parent his child from prison and has not met the DHS expectations for establishing a relationship with J.E.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         J.E. came to the attention of the DHS in May 2016 after the mother's parole officer reported the mother tested positive for methamphetamine and admitted to caring for J.E. while under the influence of the illicit drug. The DHS contacted the mother, and she consented to the removal of J.E. The juvenile court entered an order temporarily removing J.E. from the mother's custody.

         Caleb was in prison when J.E. was born and remained in prison throughout these proceedings. Once the DHS confirmed paternity, social worker Tammy Miller tried to set up visitation between Caleb and J.E. But Miller was unable to schedule father-daughter interactions because the prison required Caleb to complete a domestic-abuse class first and he failed to do so.[2] After a second inquiry, Caleb's prison counselor, Doug Fliehe, informed Miller that Caleb could not have visitors under the age of eighteen. While in prison, Caleb provided no financial support for J.E. and did not try to connect with J.E. in any way.

         The State filed a petition to terminate parental rights in December 2016. At the termination hearing, Miller testified about her efforts to involve Caleb in J.E.'s life. Fliehe testified about Caleb's progress in prison. He noted the prison considered Caleb a security risk due to his poor conduct. Because of his poor conduct, Caleb could be transferred to a more restrictive setting-making any potential visitation more difficult. According to Fliehe, Caleb's misdeeds and potential transfer also reduced Caleb's chances for parole.

         In August 2017, the juvenile court terminated Caleb's parental rights in J.E. under Iowa Code section ...


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