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In re X.L.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 2, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF X.L., Minor Child, D.L., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Gregg R. Rosenbladt, Judge.

         A father appeals the order terminating his parental rights to his three-year-old son. AFFIRMED.

          Jane M. Wright, Forest City, for appellant father.

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

          Crystal L. Ely of McGuire Law Firm, Mason City, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         DeWayne appeals the juvenile court's order terminating his parental rights to three-year-old X.L. He contends the State did not present clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds for termination. He argues it was not in X.L.'s best interests to terminate his rights, and termination would be detrimental to X.L. due to the closeness of their relationship. DeWayne complains the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) did not make reasonable efforts to reunify him with X.L. He also argues he should have been given an additional six months to work toward reunification.

         After our de novo review of the record, [1] we conclude the circumstances meet the statutory basis for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2017), and termination was proper under sections 232.116(2) and (3). DeWayne is not prepared, due to his unresolved substance-abuse issues, to assume custody despite reasonable efforts made on his behalf. An additional six months would not have remedied the situation. We affirm the juvenile court's order.


         At birth, X.L. tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of marijuana, but continued to live with his older half-sister in the care of their mother. When X.L. was just eight weeks old, the mother and DeWayne got into a physical fight, and the mother stabbed DeWayne, while X.L. was present. The DHS temporarily removed the children but later returned them to the mother's care. When X.L. was nine months old, law enforcement officials received reports the mother was physically abusing X.L.'s sister. The court approved removal of the children, then placed them back with the mother. In the fall of 2016, DHS lost contact with the family. They had become homeless, and the older child had not been attending school. Upon relocating them late in 2016, the DHS removed the children from the mother again and placed them in the foster home where they have been living ever since.

         Around this time, DeWayne got in touch with DHS about seeing X.L. At the next review hearing, DeWayne was present, and the court ordered DHS to begin providing services to him. The court ordered DHS to investigate his home for possible placement, set up drug testing, provide visitation, and assist with housing and transportation. The court ordered DeWayne to obtain substance-abuse and mental-health evaluations and follow through with any recommendation for treatment.

         In early 2017, DeWayne's substance-abuse counselor informed DHS DeWayne was not engaging in services and admitted to substance abuse but was not interested in quitting. DeWayne refused to take drug tests and missed appointments. He declined to provide his address so DHS could set up visitation. In April, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. In May, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights. But the court found DeWayne was entitled to more time to participate in services because DHS had focused its services on the mother and did not adequately respond to DeWayne's requests. DeWayne had secured a job and housing, and DHS set up supervised visits in his home.

         As the months passed, DeWayne failed to address his substance abuse or respond to services. He was discharged unsuccessfully from a treatment program for not participating. Another substance-abuse evaluation recommended extended outpatient treatment which he declined. He failed several drug screens, testing positive for marijuana. DeWayne allowed his marijuana use to impact his interactions with X.L. On one occasion, social workers came to his apartment for visitation but had to cut the visit short due to the heavy smell of marijuana. A few days later, DeWayne refused to ...

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