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In re A.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.H. and I.H., Minor Children, R.H., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Craig M. Dreismeier, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his minor children.

          Jon J. Narmi, Council Bluffs, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender Office, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         The children in interest were born in 2008 and 2010. The family was previously involved with child protective services in another state during which the children were removed from the parents' care for roughly three and a half years. The mother's parental rights were ultimately terminated, and the case was closed with the father having custody of the children and the mother being entitled to visitation at the father's discretion. The mother eventually moved back into the family home with the father and children.

         The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in October 2016 upon information that the father was both using methamphetamine in and selling the substance from the family home. The father and mother submitted to urine drug screens and tested negative for drugs, but the test results indicated the drugs tests were manipulated. As a result, DHS requested the parents to submit to hair testing. The parents declined, advising DHS they would only submit to another urine test. The parents subsequently agreed to take the hair tests. The parents failed to timely appear for their first scheduled hair tests. When the parents ultimately appeared for later tests, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines and the father did not have a sufficient amount of hair on his head or body for the test to be completed. As a result, DHS advised the parents the children would need to be subjected to hair testing. The parents declined the request. The children were removed from the parents' care in October and adjudicated children in need of assistance in December.

         Later in December, the father was referred to submit to a urinalysis and sweat-patch test. The father tested negative for drugs on his urinalysis but reporting from staff at the testing facility indicated the father manipulated the test. The father subsequently reported to DHS that his sweat patch had become damaged shortly after its application. He was directed to return the patch to the testing center and obtain a new one. The father never returned the allegedly damaged patch or obtained a new one.

         Following a substance-abuse evaluation in December, the father enrolled in outpatient treatment services. In March 2017, the father tested positive for methamphetamine. In June, the father engaged inpatient services. He was discharged in July having substantially completed the program. Shortly thereafter, the father enrolled in intensive outpatient treatment. He also submitted to drug screens in late July and early August and tested negative for drugs. As a result of these positive steps, DHS elevated the father's visitation with the children from fully supervised to semi-supervised.

         At a group-therapy session in early September, however, the father fell asleep and was unresponsive to attempts to awaken him. Medical staff reported the father exhibited signs of being under the influence of an intoxicating substance. Later in September, the father was charged with domestic abuse assault.[1] The father's interactions with the children were returned to fully supervised, and DHS subsequently recommended that a concurrent permanency plan of termination of parental rights be put in place as a potential alternative to reunification. The court adopted the recommendation in its subsequent permanency order.

         The father was successfully discharged from inpatient treatment in November, despite violating the program's attendance policy. The treatment program reported there was nothing to indicate the father was using illegal drugs at the time of his discharge. In December, the father was arrested on a charge of fifth-degree theft.[2] Later in December, the father admitted to relapsing on methamphetamine. Thereafter, the father declined to reengage substance-abuse treatment and submit to drug testing. As a result, in March 2018, the State petitioned to terminate the father's parental rights. In April, the father was living with his paramour and her relatives, but he was asked to leave this residence because the relatives suspected he was using drugs.

         It is undisputed that the father consistently attended visitations with the children throughout the life of the case and generally acted appropriately during those interactions, with some exceptions. However, the frequency and duration of the visits began to wane in or about December 2017. It is also generally undisputed that the father has continued to use drugs, was largely unemployed throughout the life of the case, and has been unable to maintain consistent suitable ...

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