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In re A.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 20, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.B. and J.B., Minor Children,
v.
F., Mother, Appellant. T.B., Father, Appellant,

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

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

          Jonathan Willier, Centerville, for appellant father. Robert F. Bozwell Jr. of Bozwell Law Office, Centerville, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Julie R. DeVries of DeVries Law Office, P.L.C., Centerville, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         The mother and the father of A.B., born in 2011, and J.B., born in 2016, separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. On appeal, the mother maintains there is not clear and convincing evidence to support termination as the children could have been returned to her care at the time of the termination hearing "or a reasonable period thereafter" and termination is not in the children's best interests. The father also claims termination is not in the children's best interests and asserts the juvenile court should have entered a permanency order placing the children in a guardianship with a relative rather than terminating the father's parental rights.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with this family in May 2015 upon allegations of lack of supervision and illegal drug use by the parents. A.B., who was then less than four years old, had been found wandering one mile from the family home, and DHS learned she had been unsupervised for approximately two hours. The mother admitted to smoking marijuana daily, but the father denied use of illegal drugs. Both parents agreed to subsequent drug testing, but neither participated. A.B. was adjudicated in need of assistance but remained in her parents' care.

         J.B. was born in the family home in April 2016. Soon thereafter, DHS received a report that the mother was using methamphetamine in the home. DHS became concerned the mother had purposely had the child at home to escape detection, as children are commonly tested for drugs at birth in the hospital. The mother showed behavioral indicators she was using the illegal substance, and both parents refused to sign the DHS safety plan. DHS then sought and obtained a removal order, and the children were placed with their paternal grandmother.

         At the April 27 removal hearing, the parents agreed to engage in services and comply with the DHS safety plan, including being tested for illegal drug use. Under these circumstances, the children were returned to the parents' care.

         However, when the results from the initial drug test came back less than one week later, both parents tested positive for the use of methamphetamine. Though she initially denied it, the mother later admitted she used methamphetamine during her pregnancy. The parents voluntarily agreed to place the children back in the care of the paternal grandmother. The court ordered the parents to participate in substance-abuse treatment and drug testing. The mother completed a substance-abuse evaluation, which diagnosed her with methamphetamine use disorder, moderate. It was recommended she begin intensive outpatient treatment, which she did not do. The father failed to complete a substance-abuse evaluation and did not otherwise seek treatment.

         After a review hearing in September, the voluntary placement of the children with ...


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