IN THE INTEREST OF B.S., Minor Child, M.S., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt,
District Associate Judge.
father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his
Barajas of Macro & Kozlowski, L.L.P., West Des Moines,
for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
M. Pattison, Supervising Attorney, and Wendy S. Rima, Student
Legal Intern, of Drake Legal Clinic, Des Moines, guardians ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his
parental rights to his minor child. The child, B.S., was born
prematurely in January 2017 and tested positive for
methamphetamines (meth) and tetrahydrocannabinol. The mother
admitted to drug use during her pregnancy and advised
hospital staff she had no intention of caring for the child.
She ultimately abandoned the child at the hospital. A removal
order was entered, and the child was adjudicated a child in
need of assistance. The child was placed in foster care with
his older half-sibling's adoptive mother. The appellant
was subsequently identified as a putative father of the
child. He was incarcerated when he submitted to paternity
testing; testing confirmed he is the biological father of the
child. After the father was released from jail, he provided
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) with his contact
information. DHS was never able to reach the father using his
provided contact information. The father testified he
attempted to contact DHS once he learned he is the biological
father of the child but he was unable to reach anyone. He did
not attempt to contact DHS thereafter.
time of the termination hearing, the father was incarcerated
on seven counts of forgery. According to his testimony, he
pled guilty "to a count of theft second and a count of
forgery" and was admitted into the drug-court program.
If he is not successful in drug court, he could go to prison.
In the two or three years leading up to the termination
hearing, the father spent the majority of his time
incarcerated, and the longest continuous duration of time he
was out of jail was approximately six months. For the past
nine years, substance abuse has been, according to the
father's testimony, a "major factor" in his
life. This has included use of marijuana, crack cocaine, and
meth. The father testified that, at the time of the
termination hearing, meth was his "drug of choice."
He further testified completion of the drug court program
would take him "anywhere between a year and a year and a
half" and he was unsure of whether he would be able to
have a child reside with him while he is in the program. At
the time of the termination hearing, the father was still
incarcerated and had yet to meet or otherwise have contact
with the child.
child has been in the same foster-care placement his entire
life. As noted, his foster mother adopted his older
half-sibling. The child is thriving and integrated in this
placement, and his foster mother is willing and able to serve
as a permanent placement.
juvenile court terminated the father's parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h)
(2017). The father appeals. He does not challenge
the State's establishment of the statutory grounds for
termination. Instead, he contends the juvenile court erred in
(1) concluding termination was in the best interests of the
child and (2) declining to grant him additional time to work
towards reunification. Our review is de novo. In re
M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). Our primary
consideration is the best interests of the child. In re
J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006).
first consider whether termination was in the best interests
of the child. In considering whether termination is in a
child's best interests, we "give primary
consideration to the child's safety, to the best
placement for furthering the long-term nurturing and growth
of the child, and to the physical, mental, and emotional
condition and needs of the child." Iowa Code §
232.116(2). This child has never met his biological father.
Up until the time of the termination hearing, the father
exhibited little interest in being involved in his son's
life. In contrast, the child has spent his entire life in a
foster placement in which he is thriving. The child is
integrated into his current home, and his foster mother is
willing and able to serve as a permanent placement. Based on
these circumstances, we conclude termination is in the
child's best interests. See id. §
232.116(2)(b)(1); cf. M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 224-25
(concluding termination was in best interests of children
where children were well-adjusted to home with their
caregivers, the caregivers were "able to provide for
their physical, emotional, and financial needs, " and
the caregivers were prepared to adopt the children).
consider the father's argument that the district court
erred in declining to grant him additional time to work
towards reunification. If, following a termination hearing,
the court does not terminate parental rights but finds there
is clear and convincing evidence that the child is a child in
need of assistance, the court may enter an order in
accordance with section 232.104(2)(b). Iowa Code §
232.117(5). Section 232.104(2)(b) affords the juvenile court
the option to continue placement of a child for an additional
six months if the court finds "the need for removal . .
. will no longer exist at the end of the additional six-month
period." Upon our de novo review, we are unable to make
a finding that the need for removal would no longer exist
after the father's requested extension. We therefore
affirm the termination of the father's parental rights.