IN THE INTEREST OF E.C., Minor Child, E.M., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Cass County, Amy L.
Zacharias, District Associate Judge.
father appeals from the termination of his parental rights.
C. Badding of Neu, Minnich, Comito, Halbur, Neu &
Badding, PC, Carroll, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
L. Mailander of Mailander Law Office, Atlantic, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
child, E.C., born in July 2014. The juvenile court terminated
the father's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code
section 232.116(1)(d), (h), and (i) (2018). The father
challenges the statutory grounds, maintains termination is
not in E.C.'s best interests, and argues a permissive
factor weighs against termination. He asks us to reverse the
termination and return E.C. to his care but argues in the
alternative that the juvenile court should have given him an
extension of time to work toward reunification.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
the child at issue, is the daughter of the mother and the
father. E.C.'s older half-sibling, J.L., has the same
mother, Beth, but is not the biological child of the
father. At the time these proceedings began, in
September 2016, Beth was caring for E.C. and J.L. and was no
longer in a relationship with J.L.'s father or with
E.C.'s s father.
children were removed from the mother's care by emergency
order after she was arrested for driving while under the
influence of methamphetamine; E.C. was in the vehicle at the
time. The reason is unclear, but the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) did not immediately make contact with the
father. Instead, both E.C. and J.L. were placed in shelter
November 2016, both children were adjudicated a child in need
of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.6(b),
(c)(2), and (n) (2016). Around the same time, the mother
moved into the father's home, and they resumed a
relationship. The pair received services together, and both
E.C. and J.L. participated in visits together with both the
mother and the father.
continued to have concerns about the mother's mental
health and her ability to refrain from using methamphetamine,
but the department believed the father was a positive support
for her. As of April 2017, DHS reported to the court that the
father was "a responsible and caring father figure to
both children." Similarly, in its April 2017 combined
review/modification order, the court noted the father
"has been cooperative and receptive to feedback. [He] is
employed and provides for the family." The parents
progressed to semi-supervised visits with the children.
July 2017, DHS scheduled a one-week trial period for the
children to be in the mother and father's care. When the
service provider dropped the children off at the home, the
mother and father had been arguing. The next day, the service
provider returned to the family home "to help
de-escalate" and asked the father to leave. The father
told the service provider he was ending his relationship with
the mother and moving out. Both E.C. and J.L. were left in
the mother's care. However, later that day, DHS received
a call on the child-abuse intake hotline, during which the
caller alleged the mother had taken the children to get
physicals and appeared "twitchy,"
"anxious," and "fidgety." The service
provider returned to the family home to check on the mother,
who admitted she had not been taking her anti-anxiety
medication or attending therapy. The unsupervised visit was
then ended early, and the children were placed in foster care
near the mother's home. The mother took a drug test that
day, which later returned positive results for
methamphetamine and amphetamines.
the father moved out of the family home, the parents started
receiving separate services and visits. The visits returned
to fully supervised for both parents. J.L. told DHS he did
not want to attend visits with the father, and J.L. began
attending them only sporadically. The father often asked
about J.L. and indicated he would like to see him and wanted
to continue to be a placement option for him.
notes from the September 2017 family team meeting indicate
"needs" for the mother, including attending
parenting class, mental-health therapy, and medication
management. The "family goal" states, "[The
mother] will maintain sobriety and manage her mental health,
for a period of six consecutive months, as evidenced by
maintaining a regular routine including sleep times,
regulating and managing her anger, and communicating better
with others." Additionally, the mother agreed to engage
in a number of things, such as drug testing. The notes are
silent as to any needs or goals for the father, other than
stating he agrees to participate in drug testing, as
required. There is no evidence in the record DHS ever asked
the father ...