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In re T.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 2, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF T.K. and D.K., Minor Children, S.D., Mother, Appellant, J.K., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joseph W. Seidlin, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal from the termination of their parental rights to their children.

          Elizabeth A. Ryan of Benzoni Law Office, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Jeremy L. Merrill of Lubinus Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

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

          ConGarry D. Williams of Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal from the termination of their parental rights to their children pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) and (l) (2017). Both parents challenge the grounds for termination, contend termination is not in the children's best interests, and assert exceptions apply to preclude the need for termination. Because the parents have not taken significant steps to reengage in substance-abuse treatment or to address the domestic-violence concerns in their relationship, we affirm the termination of their parental rights to their children.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

         The parents have two children: T.K., age 11, and D.K., age five. The department of human services (DHS) became involved with this family due to concerns regarding domestic violence and marijuana use by the parents. The children were removed on November 4, 2016, after the parents both tested positive for methamphetamine. The children were placed in the temporary legal custody of their maternal grandmother under DHS supervision.

         Following the removal of the children from their care, the parents participated in substance-abuse treatment and both achieved and maintained sobriety for approximately seven months. A transition plan was put into place anticipating return of the children to the parents' care in May of 2017. However, near the same time the children were being placed back into the parents' full-time care, the mother tested positive for marijuana. DHS reverted the parents back to semi-supervised visits.

         After the children were not returned to their full-time care as planned, the mother and father both struggled with relapse. At the time of the termination hearing on January 18, 2018, the mother reported she had used methamphetamine within the past week, and the father stated he was actively using methamphetamine "[w]hen it [was] available." Both parents were unemployed and still living together despite the acknowledged domestic-violence concerns present when they are using illegal substances. The mother stated that, following her relapse, she had attempted at least twice to begin inpatient substance-abuse-treatment programs, only to leave after about an hour each time. The mother stated she was now on a wait list for a different program. The mother also acknowledged she had not been consistent with her mental-health treatment. The father stated he had a bed at an inpatient substance-abuse treatment program lined up for the following day but had not yet taken steps to address his continuing substance-abuse issues.

         The court determined termination of the parents' parental rights was appropriate under section 232.116(1)(f) and (l). With respect to subsection (f), the court held,

[N]either parent is in any better position to have the children in her or his care today than when the children were first removed from their care. In many respects, the parents are in a worse position now than when the children were removed over [fourteen] months ago. Both are actively using methamphetamine. Neither has been in treatment for several months. Neither [is] addressing ...

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