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In re C.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.B., Minor Child, K.C., Mother, Appellant, E.B., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Charles D. Fagan, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights.

          Te'ya T. O'Bannon-Martens of O'Bannon Law, P.C., Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Jon J. Narmi, Council Bluffs, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender Officer, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights to their minor child, born in 2013. Both parents contend the juvenile court erred in (1) finding clear and convincing evidence supported the statutory grounds for termination, (2) concluding termination is in the child's best interests, and (3) declining to apply the statutory exceptions to termination. The father additionally argues the juvenile court abused its discretion in declining to reopen the record in the termination proceeding and the department of human services (DHS) failed to make reasonable efforts to facilitate reunification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         This family came to the attention of DHS in August 2016 upon information that the parents were using methamphetamine (meth) while caring for the child. It was further alleged that the parents sedated the child to make her sleep and domestic violence occurred in the child's presence. Upon investigation, DHS learned the family was living out of a hotel and both parents were unemployed. Both parents denied using any illegal substances, but the father tested positive for meth and the mother tested positive for amphetamine. An order for temporary removal was entered on August 22, 2016, and the child was placed in shelter care and then relative care. The child subsequently tested positive for both meth and amphetamine. A child abuse assessment was founded for denial of critical care and the presence of illegal drugs in the child. The parents were subsequently arrested and charged with child endangerment. The child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance in October.

         Following substance-abuse evaluations in September, both parents received recommendations to attend intensive outpatient treatment. Both parents were admitted to treatment on October 5. The mother did not attend any individual sessions following her admission. The father attended one individual session on October 11 but tested positive for meth and amphetamine two days later, after which he did not attend any additional sessions. Without completing the program, the parents were discharged in November. The parents began another outpatient treatment program in January 2017. Their recovery therapist reported both parents were making progress in their treatment. However, between late November 2016 and early February 2017, the parents failed to provide drug screens to DHS on thirteen occasions. By February, the parents obtained a home, jobs, and transportation. By May, the parents progressed to unsupervised, overnight, and weekend visitation with the child. Up to this point in time, the parents did well with visitations.

         Thereafter, however, things began to unravel. In late May the parents got in a fight and separated. The father moved in with his parents; he tested positive for meth shortly thereafter. The mother moved in with her parents, but was kicked out after a short time as a result of a physical altercation with her mother. Also in May, the parents discontinued attending their outpatient treatment program and were subsequently unsuccessfully discharged. Due to the father's relapse; the mother's inability to obtain mental-health treatment; both parents' lack of success in substance-abuse treatment; and lack of stable housing, transportation, and employment, unsupervised visitations were discontinued. The mother moved again and did not visit the child from June 2 until August 15. The father had no visitations with the child from May 19 until September 5. The lack of contact with her parents had little, if any, effect on the child.

         By August, the parents reconciled and began living together with one of their friends. In October, the State petitioned to terminate the parents' parental rights. Later that month, the parents reengaged in substance-abuse treatment. At the time of the termination hearing in early December, the father had attended two ...


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