IN THE INTEREST OF L.B., Minor Child, D.B., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Frideres-Seymour, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights.
AFFIRMED. Andrea M. Flanagan of Flanagan Law Group, P.L.L.C.,
Des Moines, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
ConGarry D. Williams of Juvenile Public Defender Office, Des
Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
child, born in April 2016. On appeal, the father challenges the
statutory grounds for termination and claims termination of
his parental rights is not in the child's best interests.
We review the termination of parental rights de novo. In
re D.M.J., 780 N.W.2d 243, 245 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010).
juvenile court terminated the father's parental rights
pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h) (2017).
Where, as here, the juvenile court terminates on more than
one ground, we may affirm on any ground that we find
supported by clear and convincing evidence. In re
D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010). We consider
paragraph (h), which allows the court to terminate parental
rights if it finds all of the following:
(1)The child is three years of age or younger.
(2) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of
assistance pursuant to section 232.96.
(3)The child has been removed from the physical custody of
the child's parents for at least six months of the last
twelve months, or for the last six consecutive months and any
trial period at home has been less than thirty days.
(4) There is clear and convincing evidence that the child
cannot be returned to the custody of the child's parents
as provided in section 232.102 at the present time.
Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(h).
father concedes the first two elements have been met; he
challenges only the third and, nominally, the fourth element.
The father maintains the third element has not been satisfied
because he had a "trial period" with the child in
his home for longer than thirty days. The father misconstrues
the meaning of the third element. The child was placed in his
care from June 2016-when L.B. was formally removed from the
mother's care-until October 2016. However, from October
2016 until November 2017-the time of the termination
hearing-L.B. remained outside of the father's care. L.B.
had been outside of the father's care for all of the
previous twelve months leading up to the termination hearing
with no trial period at home; thus, the third element is
satisfied. See D.M.J., 780 N.W.2d at 246
("Given the presence of a comma in the statute before
the word 'or, ' we think it is reasonable to conclude
that the subsequent language 'and any trial period at
home has been less than thirty days' applies to and
qualifies only the language after the comma.").
As to the fourth element, the father does not allege that
L.B. could have been returned to his care at the time of the
termination hearing, and our own review of the record
establishes that the child could not be returned to the
father's care. The father attended only one visit with
L.B. in the six weeks leading up to the termination hearing
and he had not yet completed substance-abuse treatment,
mental-health therapy, an anger-management course, or
parenting classes-although each had been recommended since
the proceedings began in June 2016. We acknowledge the father
began participating in several of the recommended services in
August and September 2017, but we "look skeptically at
'last-minute' attempts to address longstanding
issues, finding them inadequate to preclude termination of
parental rights." In re A.D., No. 15-1508, 2016
WL 902953, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. ...