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In re G.Y.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF G.Y., Minor Child, D.Y., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lynn Poschner, District Associate Judge.

         A father contests the termination of his parental rights to his one-year-old son.

          Agnes G. Warutere of Warutere Law Office, Clive, for appellant father.

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

          Nicole Garbis Nolan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         A father, Devantea, appeals the juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to one-year-old G.Y. Devantea first alleges the juvenile court failed to ask about the child's Native American heritage. He next contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts to reunite him with G.Y. and did not investigate his adult relatives as placement options. Devantea also challenges the statutory grounds cited by the juvenile court for terminating his parental rights. After fully assessing the record, we affirm the juvenile court's order.[1] But because the appellate record raises questions concerning the father's possible membership in the Cherokee Indian tribe, we remand to ensure compliance with the notice requirements of the Iowa Indian Child Welfare Act (Iowa ICWA).

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         G.Y. was born in December 2016. His parents are Devantea and Jennifer.[2]During her pregnancy with G.Y., Devantea assaulted Jennifer, breaking her jaw.[3]The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) started providing services to Jennifer following an October 2016 founded child-abuse report involving inadequate supervision of her three older children. The juvenile court issued a removal order for all four children in March 2017, finding Jennifer was not providing proper supervision and Devantea was not an appropriate placement for G.Y. because he had a "history of violence including domestic assault and has an extensive drug related history and he has a[n] NCO in place with the mother as the protected party."

         The juvenile court adjudicated G.Y. as a child in need of assistance (CINA) in April 2017.[4] Devantea contested the adjudication and asked the DHS to place G.Y. with Devantea's uncle. Devantea later asserted the DHS did not tell him why the paternal uncle was not considered a suitable custodian. In May 2017, Devantea tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

         In the intervening year, Devantea had sparse contact with his son. He saw G.Y. in May 2017 and then not again until November 2017. Devantea attended visits on November 10 and 17, but refused to schedule or confirm any additional sessions.[5] Devantea did not engage in therapy to address his aggressive behaviors or participate in other services recommended by the DHS. He also continued to use controlled substances and failed to resolve an out-of-state warrant for his arrest.

         After holding permanency hearings in March 2018, the juvenile court decided G.Y. should remain in out-of-home placement. The court found Devantae-who did not attend the hearings-could not assume custody of G.Y. because he had "absented himself from his son's life" and had not taken part in any services. At the May 2018 termination hearing, Devantae testified he had not seen G.Y. since November 2017 because he felt "discouraged" his son was not placed with a family member. He also admitted sending Jennifer a threatening message stating: "My son don't come home in March, I promise to God I will smack your ass in the courtroom."

         The juvenile court terminated Devantea's parental rights under three statutory provisions: paragraphs (b), (e), and (h) ...


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