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In re R.A.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 21, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF R.A., S.A., A.A., and K.A., Minor Children, L.A., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D. Belcher, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights.

          Justin J. Gross of Community Lawyers of Iowa, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Erin E. Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         The father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his children A.A., born in November 2009, and K.A., born in December 2010.[1] [2] The father's rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (f), and (i) (2017). The father argues there is not clear and convincing evidence to terminate his parental rights on any of the three grounds for termination and termination is not in the children's best interests.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         This family has previously been involved with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). In July 2012, DHS filed a founded report of denial of critical care and failure to provide proper supervision. The father, a truck driver at the time, left the children home alone with their mother for a period of days. The mother in this case is physically and mentally unable to care for the children-she is unable to speak or walk without assistance-and is considered a dependent adult by DHS. The mother was found wandering the neighborhood, and the children-then ages one and two-were home with their siblings, ages ten and twelve. DHS informed the father he could not leave the children alone without another adult to supervise, as their mother was not able to do so. In September 2012, DHS filed another founded report of denial of critical care when workers visited the home to find the children alone with their mother. The father was again told the children cannot be left home alone with their mother.

         This case started when the children were removed in May 2014 after the father left the children alone with their mother for over a month to look for work in his home country of El Salvador. The house was unlivable; it was infested with cockroaches, the plumbing was inoperable, and feces was present throughout the house. The mother and the oldest child, R.A., had to be hospitalized upon removal; R.A. had severe mental-health issues resulting from the pressure of having to care for her family. The children were placed with a foster family and were adjudicated children in need of assistance in August.

         The children reported domestic violence in the home. R.A. and S.A. reported their father severely beat and choked their mother, and medical professionals have suggested this abuse caused her mental and physical disabilities. R.A. and S.A. reported their father perpetrating physical and emotional abuse towards themselves and their siblings.

         In June the father tested positive for cocaine use. He has not tested positive for drugs since.

         By March 2015, the father had cleaned up the home and was attending individual therapy. At the permanency review hearing that month, the court was concerned with the father's abilities to parent the children. The father struggled with managing all of the children during visitation-often expecting the older two children to take care of the younger two-had ...


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