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In re R.T.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 6, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF R.T. and X.T., Minor Children, J.T., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Appanoose County, William S. Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A father appeals the order entered by the juvenile court terminating his parental rights to his children. AFFIRMED.

          Debra A. George of Griffing and George Law Firm, P.L.C., Centerville, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State. Julie R. De Vries of De Vries Law Office, P.L.C., Centerville, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         A father had two children, born in 2014 and 2015.[1] The department of human services twice investigated him for child abuse and twice issued founded reports naming him as the perpetrator. The first report was based on the father's inattention to the older child's safety. The second was filed after the younger child sustained an arm fracture that "appear[ed] to be non-accidental." The juvenile court ordered the children temporarily removed from the parents' care. They were placed with their maternal grandparents, where they remained throughout the proceedings.[2] The court later adjudicated the children as children in need of assistance and eventually terminated both parents' parental rights to the children.

         On appeal, the father (1) challenges "the circumstances which caused the removal" and "the court's rationale for continued removal"; (2) challenges the ground for termination cited by the juvenile court and contends the department of human services failed to make reasonable efforts toward reunification; (3) argues he should have been granted additional time to facilitate reunification; and (4) contends a guardianship, rather than termination of parental rights, was in the best interests of the children.[3]

         I. Removal

         The father argues, "[T]he circumstances which caused the [children's] removal were not sufficient for removal." This issue is moot. See Homan v. Branstad, 864 N.W.2d 321, 328 (Iowa 2015) ("A case is moot if it no longer presents a justiciable controversy because the issues involved are academic or nonexistent." (quoting Iowa Bankers Ass'n v. Iowa Credit Union Dep't, 334 N.W.2d 439, 442 (Iowa 1983))); In re A.M.H., 516 N.W.2d 867, 871 (Iowa 1994) (finding parent's challenge to removal order moot where the court subsequently entered adjudicatory and dispositional orders). Accordingly, we decline to consider the father's challenge to the removal order.

         II. Ground for Termination and Reasonable Efforts

         The district court terminated the father's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2017), which requires proof of several elements, including proof a child cannot be returned to the parent's custody. "[A]s part of its ultimate proof the child cannot be safely returned to the care of a parent, " "[t]he State must show reasonable efforts" were made to reunify parent with child. See In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 493 (Iowa 2000).

         The father argues the department did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification and, as a result, the State failed to prove this ground for termination. On our de novo review, we disagree.

         The father tested positive for amphetamines before the inception of this action and tested positive a second time after the State filed the child-in-need-of-assistance petition. The department afforded him ...


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