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In re V.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF V.S. and A.S., Minor Children, G.S., Mother, Appellant, A.S., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Floyd County, Karen Kaufman Salic, District Associate Judge.

         A father and mother separately appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Mark A. Milder, Waverly, for appellant mother.

          Danielle M. DeBower of Eggert, Erb, Kuehner & DeBower, P.L.C., Charles City, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith L. Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Cynthia Schuknecht of Noah, Smith, Schuknecht & Sloter, P.L.C., Charles City, for guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         A father and mother separately appeal termination of their parental rights to A.S., born in 2009, and V.S., born in 2013. The parents' rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2017).[1] The father argues the State failed to prove the children could not be returned to his custody, the State did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification, and the district court erred in failing to dismiss the termination petition based on the misconduct of the witness for the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). The mother argues the State did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification, the children could have been returned to her custody at the time of the termination hearing, termination is not in the best interests of the children, and the district court should have dismissed the termination petition based on misconduct of the witness for DHS.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         This family was first involved with DHS in June 2015 when the mother left the children in a car in a casino parking lot for a period of time. A resulting child-abuse investigation was founded for denial of critical care. DHS provided services for three months and identified no additional concerns.

         In the present case, a year after the first involvement of DHS, the children were removed in June 2016 when the mother was arrested. The mother and the children had been living at a hotel for ten days. When confronted with her unpaid hotel bill, the mother became angry and destructive, and the hotel called law enforcement. The mother was arrested on an outstanding warrant. The father was jailed in Minnesota at the time. The mother admitted to smoking methamphetamine in the hotel room bathroom while the children were in her care; methamphetamine was found in her vehicle. She also admitted to leaving the children at the hotel alone to visit a casino over two hours away. A.S. had not consistently participated in school and both children were behind on their vaccinations. The children were placed in foster care and, in July, were adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA). A dispositional hearing was held in August. A review hearing was held in January 2017. The parents did not attend.

         In February, the parents were arrested for violating parole by continuing to use methamphetamine and failing to participate in substance-abuse treatment. The mother and father entered separate residential correctional facilities and began substance-abuse treatment. Both parents have a history of engaging in criminal activities. In 2015, the mother was convicted of two counts of felony theft, seven counts of misdemeanor theft, forgery, and a methamphetamine offense. The father has a felony drug conviction in Minnesota and a felony theft conviction in Iowa. The mother was arrested again in April 2017.

         The parents were resistant to family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) services throughout the case. In the spring of 2017, the mother told the FSRP provider she would not meet with her for status sessions, provided for the purpose of discussing the case plan and parent goals, and would only attend visits with the children. The district court found that of the fifty scheduled visits during the first eighteen months of the CINA case, the parents canceled or did not attend twenty-four visits, including many times when they did not want to schedule visits for a week or so at a time or did not contact the provider to schedule visits. The parents often failed to confirm visits, causing them to be canceled; confirmed visits but did not attend, causing the children anxiety and distrust over whether their parents would show up; or showed ...


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