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In re C.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 6, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.R., Minor Child, J.R., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J. Tabor, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          Martha L. Cox, Bettendorf, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Brian P. Donnelly of Mayer, Lonergan & Rolfes, P.C., Clinton, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ. Tabor, J., takes no part.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.[1] He challenges the grounds for termination of his parental rights and contends the juvenile court erred in refusing to consider his motion to modify placement prior to termination.[2]

         The Iowa Department of Human Services has been providing services to these parents in relation to a number of their children since 2015. The father has a history of aggressive behavior and domestic violence. The child in interest was born in early July 2017. Hospital staff received a report from a third party that the mother engaged in the use of methamphetamine on the date she was admitted to the hospital and gave birth to the child. The mother refused drug testing but admitted she used methamphetamine during her pregnancy. The child tested positive for methamphetamine. At the time of the child's birth, the father[3] was incarcerated. The father remained incarcerated throughout these proceedings, but the evidence reflects he was to be released on parole in April 2018. The father testified at the termination hearing he has been incarcerated for an approximate total of seven years since 2008. The father has a total of eight children and has never been involved in any of their lives.

         The child was removed from the mother's care on July 10, 2017, and was placed in foster care. Shortly thereafter, the father filed a letter with the court stating, "I will not be attending this court" and "do not send me another piece of paper about this child." The father testified that, at the time he sent the letter, he knew he was potentially the child's father. A few days later, service providers visited the father in jail, upon which the father advised, "I don't want anything to do with this child." In August, the juvenile court adjudicated the child a child in need of assistance and ordered the foster-care placement to be continued. Following a dispositional hearing in October, the court again continued the foster-care placement. The child has been in the same foster-to-adopt home his entire life and is bonded with his foster parents. The child has special needs, and those needs have been consistently met in the foster home.

         The State petitioned for the termination of both parent's parental rights on December 7. The father took no part in the proceedings until December 11, when he filed a motion to "modify disposition and/or placement." In his motion, the father stated his mother and her husband are licensed foster parents and requested that the child be placed with them. The court ordered that the motion be considered at the same time as the upcoming permanency and dispositional-review hearing. In a subsequent order, the court noted the "[f]ather's mother needs to be vetted as a family placement, " and ordered that all matters, including the issue of termination, be considered at the next hearing, which was ultimately held in March 2018.

         Following the hearing, the court terminated the father's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (e), (g), and (h). The father filed a motion to reconsider, enlarge, or amend requesting the court to allow him an additional six months to work toward reunification and to grant his motion to modify placement. The juvenile court denied the motion, and the father appealed.[4]

         Appellate review of termination-of-parental-rights proceedings is de novo. In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018) (quoting In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa 2014)). Our primary consideration is the best interests of the child. In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa 2006).

         First, the father challenges the grounds for termination of his parental rights under section 232.116(1)(b), (e), (g), and (h). "On appeal, we may affirm the juvenile court's termination order on any ground that we find supported by clear and ...


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