IN THE INTEREST OF M.Q. and C.Q., Minor Children, C.Q., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Buena Vista County, Mary L.
McCollum Timko, Associate Juvenile Judge.
father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his
parental rights to two children.
J. Smith of Mack, Hansen, Gadd, Armstrong & Brown, PC,
Storm Lake, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Minnihan, Onawa, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
haven't been a parent for my kids," Christian
candidly testified at the hearing on the petition to
terminate his parental relationship with his daughter, M.Q.,
and son, C.Q. But on appeal Christian challenges the juvenile
court's conclusion he abandoned the children. He also
contends termination of his parental rights is not in the
children's best interests. The juvenile court concluded
"Christian's actions are the epitome of the word
abandonment." On our de novo review, we reach the same
conclusion. And given Christian's admitted
methamphetamine addiction and criminal conduct, we conclude
the children's safety and long-term nurturing and growth
is best served by termination of his parental rights.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
use of methamphetamine while caring for then nine-month-old
M.Q. first brought this family to the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) in May 2016. Christian was
living with M.Q.'s mother, Claudia.The DHS later
learned Christian's brother broke into the family's
apartment looking for methamphetamine; Christian physically
fought with his brother in M.Q.'s presence. After an
initial investigation, the DHS instructed Claudia to keep
M.Q. away from Christian until he underwent drug testing. The
State believed Claudia, who was pregnant with their second
child, "loosely" followed the safety plan-living
with her mother.
was born in August 2016. Three months later, due to the
family's continued instability, the juvenile court
adjudicated M.Q. as a child in need of assistance (CINA). The
court adjudicated C.Q. as a CINA in January 2017.
same month, the court ordered Christian to complete a
substance-abuse evaluation. The court allowed Christian to
remain in the home with Claudia and the children but
cautioned the arrangement would change if he continued using
controlled substances. Christian successfully completed
impatient treatment in March and engaged in outpatient
treatment following his discharge. But one month later,
Christian used methamphetamine and marijuana to celebrate his
early May 2017, the DHS developed a new safety plan under
which Claudia and the children would stay at a shelter. A
short time later, Claudia and the children moved in with
Christian's parents. Christian was expected to contact
DHS to set up visits. Christian did not do so. While his
family stayed at the shelter, Christian would stop by without
contacting DHS and ask Claudia for money. Christian attempted
to visit his parents' home on two occasions, but they
turned him away because such contact was unauthorized. Then
Christian stopped visiting all together. Claudia told workers
she did not know his whereabouts until November when he
pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm
and received a probationary sentence. Christian violated his
probation and was in custody at the time of the termination
December, the State filed a petition to terminate
Christian's parental rights, citing Iowa Code section
232.116(1)(b), (e), and (h) (2017). The juvenile court held a
hearing on the petition in January 2018. At the time of the
hearing, M.Q. was seventeen months old and C.Q. was five
months old. In his testimony, Christian admitted having no
contact with his children since late April or early May 2017.
He also admitted he had not provided financially or
emotionally for his children-with the exception of a small
contribution to buy a Christmas gift. But ...