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In re J.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

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

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Steven J. Holwerda, District Associate Judge.

          A father appeals the adjudication of his child as a child in need of assistance.

          Larry J. Pettigrew of Pettigrew Law Firm, P.C., Ankeny, for appellant father.

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

          Dusty L. Clements of Clements Law and Mediation, LLC, Newton, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         A father appeals the adjudication of his child, J.R., as a child in need of assistance (CINA), arguing the State failed to present clear and convincing evidence under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) and (c)(2) (2018).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         J.R. was born in December 2017. Shortly after his birth, it was reported that the mother and father had difficulties maintaining a clean and safe home.[1] A worker from the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) visited the home where the mother, father, J.R., the mother's father, and the mother's step-mother reside together. The DHS worker found the home to be adequately clean, organized, and appropriate for the family. The parents agreed to work with family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) services, and a worker came to their home every day for a thirty-day period between December and January. The FSRP worker reported the parents complied with requests, but the worker expressed concerns about both parents' mental health and whether the home would be adequately safe once J.R. becomes mobile. The State requested the court to adjudicate J.R. as a child in need of assistance.

         At the adjudication hearing, the State presented evidence the father's parental rights to other children had previously been terminated. The father testified he has six children, including J.R. The father testified his first child was adopted by other parents. Three of his children are residing with their mother, the father's ex-wife, and the father is unsure of their whereabouts. His parental rights to his fifth child, B.R., born to J.R.'s mother, were terminated in Minnesota in the summer of 2017.

         At the hearing, the State submitted a parental-capacity evaluation and the termination order from the Minnesota termination proceedings. The parental-capacity evaluation included concerns the father was not able to follow medical recommendations, was overfeeding the child, did not have appropriate knowledge of developmental milestones, inappropriately held the baby, and had a history of mental-health and domestic-violence issues. In the Minnesota termination order, the court found there were concerns about the home being dirty, cluttered, and unsafe for a child, and concerns about the father's understanding of child development and ability to properly feed, dress, or bathe the child.

         The Minnesota parental-capacity evaluation reflects the father has been admitted to inpatient mental-health services multiple times for suicidal ideation, with the most recent hospitalization in 2014. The Minnesota termination order found the father had a history of untreated mental-health issues, including bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and other personality disorders with antisocial traits. The father was not taking his medications as prescribed at that time and had not followed through after multiple psychiatric evaluations. The evaluation found the father to have cognitive limitations. The father admitted in the Minnesota termination proceedings that he was unable to properly parent the child or meet the child's needs and would not be able to do so in the reasonable foreseeable future.

         At the adjudication hearing in this matter, the father testified he was planning to move to another apartment with the mother and J.R. The mother testified they could better manage the cleanliness of their home in a new apartment because it would not be shared with the mother's father, step-mother, and their multiple cats. The father testified he was not currently taking any mental-health medication because his last doctor discontinued his medication. The father has not engaged in therapy as recommended by DHS. He also testified he was on the waiting list for mental-health services; his wife had made the appointment the day prior to the hearing. The parents submitted a letter from J.R.'s doctor stating J.R. is in good health, showing good growth, and is up ...

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