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In re K.A

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 4, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF K.A., Minor Child, B.M., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Angela L. Doyle, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the juvenile court's termination of his parental rights.

          AFFIRMED. Sarah J. Livingston of Thatcher, Tofilon & Livingston, P.L.C., Fort Dodge, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Neven J. Conrad of Baker, Johnsen, Sandblom & Lemmenes, Humboldt, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          MULLINS, Judge.

         A father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to his minor child, K.A., born in December 2014. He contends the district court erred in finding clear and convincing evidence supported the statutory grounds for termination, concluding termination was in the child's best interests, declining to apply a statutory exception to termination, and failing to grant a six-month extension to achieve reunification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         K.A. came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in September 2016 upon allegations that his mother was using methamphetamine while caring for him and would leave him for days at a time with friends and family. After a positive drug screen for methamphetamine and a founded child-abuse assessment against the mother for denial of critical care for failure to provide proper supervision, K.A. was placed in foster care. At that time, the child's father was not identified. On December 15, K.A. was adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance (CINA), and temporary custody was placed with DHS for placement in foster care. At the time of the termination hearing, other than a two-month trial period with the mother in May and June 2017, K.A. had been removed from parental care for thirteen of the last fifteen months and had been placed with the same foster family during that time.

         On March 6, 2017, K.A.'s father was identified through paternity testing. The father's first contact with K.A. occurred on March 8.[1] On April 5, he signed a contract of expectations with DHS and was initially offered three supervised visits per week. Attendance and engagement were inconsistent until July, when regular interactions took place and a more significant visitation plan was developed, which included unsupervised visits. However, beginning in September, the father began cancelling visits, and when he did visit, DHS reported that he was not engaging with K.A. in activities. The visitation plan reverted to supervised visits due to the father's inconsistent visitation as well as his failure to comply with mandated drug testing. He has not visited K.A. since early December, and K.A. has never been placed in his father's care.

         During May 2017, the father entered residential treatment. He was asked to leave early due to rule violations after which he transferred to intensive outpatient treatment in June. He completed this treatment program and transferred to an extended outpatient treatment plan. However, he stopped attending and was discharged at the end of August with substantial completion. He admitted to relapsing a week after his discharge. The father was asked to submit to random drug testing with DHS beginning in August but failed to appear on numerous occasions from August 23, 2017 to January 4, 2018.

         The father completed a substance-abuse evaluation on November 28, 2017, and extensive outpatient treatment was recommended. Although he attended the admittance appointment on December 1, he did not appear for additional services and was unsuccessfully discharged on January 1, 2018.

         The father is homeless and unemployed. He was living with his father and his other child in the family home. The other child is the subject of CINA proceedings and, as such, conditions were placed on the father to allow him to remain in the home. Due to his noncompliance with those expectations, including drug testing, he ...


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