IN THE INTEREST OF S.E., Minor Child, P.H., Father, Appellant, K.J., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Page County, Amy L.
Zacharias, District Associate Judge.
mother and father each challenge a juvenile court order
terminating their parental rights to their four-year-old son.
M. Hart of Reisinger Booth and Associates, P.C., L.L.O.,
Omaha, Nebraska, for appellant father.
R. Wyatt of Woods & Wyatt, P.L.L.C., Glenwood, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
R. Danley, Sidney, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
Philip and Kassandra, separately appeal the termination of
their parental rights in their now four-year-old son, S.E.
The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) took custody of
S.E. based on Kassandra's methamphetamine use. On appeal,
Kassandra challenges the juvenile court's determinations
S.E. could not be returned to her care, she failed to
maintain significant and meaningful contact with S.E. and
made no efforts to resume care for S.E., and termination was
in S.E.'s best interests. Kassandra also requests an
additional six months to work toward reunification. Philip
challenges the juvenile court's determinations S.E. could
not be placed with him, he failed to maintain significant and
meaningful contact with S.E. and made no efforts to resume
care for S.E., and termination was in S.E.'s best
interests. Philip also argues S.E. was never removed from his
care because he was the noncustodial parent, and the State
failed to make reasonable efforts to support reunification.
independently reviewing the record, we reach the same
conclusion as the juvenile court regarding the termination of
Facts and Prior Proceedings
and his half-siblings came to the attention of the DHS in
October 2015 after a child protective worker found Kassandra
failed to provide proper supervision for the children. In May
2016, Kassandra tested positive for methamphetamine; S.E. was
voluntarily placed with a family friend. Citing
Kassandra's continued drug use, the State filed a
petition alleging S.E. and his siblings were children in need
of assistance (CINA). In August 2016, S.E.'s placement
could no longer care for him, and he was formally removed
from his parents' custody through an ex parte order and
placed in foster care.
state officials could not locate Philip after a diligent
search, they served him notice of the CINA hearing via
publication. In October 2016, Philip and Kassandra appeared
telephonically at the hearing where S.E. was adjudicated
CINA. The juvenile court advised both parents to
seek mental-health and chemical-dependency evaluations,
follow their respective substance-abuse and mental-health
recommendations, submit to random drug screenings, actively
engage in Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP)
services, and participate in visitation.
parents did not follow that advice. Philip did not remain
engaged with services, did not remain in contact with his
attorney, and did not file the necessary paperwork to allow
the attorney to be paid by the State. After obtaining
Philip's updated contact information, an FSRP worker text
messaged him the date and time of an upcoming family team
meeting. But Philip did not attend the meeting. And Kassandra
consistently either failed to complete requested drug screens
or tested positive for illegal substances.
parents appeared in person for the first time before the
juvenile court at a February 2017 review hearing. The court
warned the parents to comply with services or risk
termination of parental rights. Philip appeared to initially
take this warning seriously. He moved in with his aunt to
establish more stable housing and he got a job. He also
completed a chemical-dependency evaluation and was to begin
substance-abuse treatment in February. But Philip did not
show up for treatment and did not contact the facility.
Eventually, Philip again attempted inpatient treatment but
left after just a week. For her part, Kassandra entered
inpatient substance-abuse treatment in March 2017 and
completed a thirty-day program. But while in treatment
Kassandra did not finish assignments and became upset when
staff recommended additional treatment. Upon her discharge
she entered outpatient treatment despite recommendations she
complete an additional thirty-day inpatient program.
2017, Kassandra moved into her paramour's home and hoped
to have visitation with S.E. there. While her paramour
completed an initial background check, he failed to provide
any explanation for his significant history of criminal
convictions and abuse reports. Both parents attended a May
court hearing and provided drug screens free from
unprescribed substances. That same month, the State filed its
petition to terminate parental rights in S.E. Then both
parents began to miss random drug screens. Kassandra
submitted one subsequent drug screen on June 22, 2017 and
tested positive for methamphetamines, amphetamines, and THC.
juvenile court held a termination-of-parental-rights hearing
on September 19, 2017. Both Kassandra and Philip were present
but only Kassandra testified. The juvenile court concluded
Philip and Kassandra abandoned S.E. under Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(e) (2017) and S.E. could not be returned to either
parents' home under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h). The
court also concluded the State provided reasonable efforts
supporting reunification and termination of Philip and
Kassandra's rights is in S.E.'s best interests. Both
parents now appeal.
Analysis of the Parents' Issues