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In re N.J.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 18, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF N.J., N.J., and M.J., Minor Children, M.J., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan C. Cox, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights.

          Jesse A. Macro Jr. of Macro & Kozlowski, L.L.P., West Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          Brent M. Pattison of Drake Legal Clinic, Des Moines, attorney for Ne.J.

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

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         The father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his children Ne.J., born in November 2004; Na.J., born in March 2007; and M.J., born in May 2011.[1] The father's rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (f), and (i) (2017). The father contends termination is not in the best interests of the children and placement with paternal family members was not properly considered.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In August 2016, Ne.J. and Na.J. disclosed the father's sexual abuse. Ne.J. reported repeated sexual abuse starting at age eight or nine. Na.J. reported repeated sexual abuse during the past two years. Both sisters report witnessing the other sister being sexually abused and their brother witnessing their sexual abuse. M.J. reported being physically abused on a regular basis and witnessing his two sisters being physically abused. The mother reported witnessing the father forcing Ne.J. to perform oral sex in 2011.

         All three children were removed and adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) in September. They were placed with a paternal aunt until January 2017, when the aunt violated a court order by allowing the father's sister to talk to Ne.J. about the abuse. The children were then placed in their maternal grandparents' custody.

         In April, the court ordered M.J. to be placed in a shelter. The maternal grandparents were unable to safely care for M.J. due to his mental-health issues, and his therapist recommended placement in a shelter. Later, M.J. was hospitalized and then placed in foster care. M.J. was placed at various shelters and foster homes until July 10, when he was placed at Four Oaks, a psychiatric medical institution for children.

         From May to August, Ne.J. and Na.J. were placed with a foster family to allow time for their maternal grandparents to learn skills to be able to better meet their needs. The sisters were returned to their maternal grandparents in August, and ...


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