IN THE INTEREST OF A.R., M.A., and H.R., Minor Children, J.C., Mother, Appellant, E.A., Father of M.A., Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Crawford County, Mary L.
Timko, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
E. Gustafson of Gustafson Law Firm, Denison, for appellant
A. Sibbel of Law Office of Martha Sibbel, P.L.C, Carroll, for
appellant father of M.A.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Minnihan, Onawa, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
mother, Jessica, appeals the juvenile court's statutory
basis for terminating her parental relationship with three
children-A.R., M.A., and H.R.- ages three, six and
nine. M.A.'s father, Edward, also appeals
the termination of his parental rights, claiming the State
did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification. After
reviewing the available record,  we conclude the juvenile
court correctly decided the children could not be safely
returned to Jessica's care, a guardianship was not the
right solution, and the State made reasonable efforts to
reunify Edward and M.A.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
first encountered the Department of Human Services (DHS) in
2009 when H.R., the oldest child, was just eleven months old.
Since then, the DHS has launched eight investigations related
to Jessica's children. Three investigations- including
the most recent one-related to Jessica's drug use.
recently, the DHS intervened after learning of domestic abuse
occurring in Jessica's home and in front of the children.
In March 2016, the children witnessed Jessica's
then-paramour, Ben, hit her. Eventually the children hid in a
closet and an extended family member was forced to climb
through a window to reach them. Initially the children
hesitated to discuss Ben's actions because Jessica told
them they would be taken away if they did. After reassurances
from the DHS worker, seven-year-old H.R. and four-year-old
M.A. described seeing Ben strangle Jessica, strike her on the
head, and throw her to the ground. Around that same time,
Jessica completed a drug screen and tested positive for
methamphetamine. The children were removed from the home. In
April 2016, the juvenile court notified the fathers of the
children's removal and scheduled a hearing. Relying on
Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2), the juvenile court
adjudicated A.R., M.A., and H.R. as children in need of
assistance (CINA) in May 2016.
the children were removed, Jessica ended her relationship
with Ben and entered mental-health and substance-abuse
therapy. She also regularly attended visits with the
children. But M.A.'s father, Edward, did not remain in
contact with the DHS after April 2016. He also did not
contact the family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) worker
in charge of scheduling visitation and did not return the
children entered foster care and, in mid-July, the
children's foster dad reported H.R. tried to strangle
herself with a mini-blind cord and said she wanted to kill
fall 2016, Jessica's recovery took a turn for the worse.
Between April and October, Jessica missed one-half of her
scheduled mental-health therapy sessions. The treatment
center required her to complete a "Strategies for
Success" group before resuming therapy. Jessica also
moved to Dow City, despite the transportation difficulties
posed by the new location. She also began dating a new paramour,
Trent, with a criminal history, though she denied living with
him. When H.R. was admitted to a pediatric psychiatric
facility in November, Jessica did not go with her.
began communicating with a DHS worker in December 2016. The
worker encouraged Edward to attend an upcoming family team
meeting either in person or by phone, but the meeting notes
show Edward did not participate. Edward also did not attend
the family team meeting in January 2017 and did not respond
to attempts by an FSRP worker to set up visitation.
H.R.'s December psychiatric progress report also revealed
troubling information-when scared or nervous H.R. dissociated
by acting like a dinosaur and expressing herself through
also struggled in December 2016 and tested positive for
methamphetamine. By February, Jessica's substance-abuse
therapy report was poor. She only attended one of three
individual therapy sessions in the ...