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In re M.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.C., A.M., L.M., and A.M., Minor Children, A.M., Father of A.M., L.M., and A.M., Appellant, A.C., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Washington County, Daniel Kitchen, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father challenge an order terminating their rights in their children. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Kathryn J. Salazar of Schlegel & Salazar, L.L.P., Washington, for appellant father. Jeffrey L. Powell of Powell and McCullough, PLC, Coralville, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Katie Mitchell of Mitchell Law Office, PLC, Washington, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          McDONALD, JUDGE.

         Ambrashia and Anthony each appeal from an order terminating their respective parental rights in three of their children, A.M. (age 3), L.M. (age 2), and A.M. (age 1), pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018). Ambrashia also appeals the termination of her rights in another child, M.C. (age 6), pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f). Anthony challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the statutory grounds authorizing termination of his parental rights. He also claims the Iowa Department of Human Services ("IDHS") did not make reasonable efforts to facilitate reunification of the family. Both parents challenge the juvenile court's denial of their requests for an additional six months' time to work toward reunification. Both parents also contend termination of their rights was not in the best interests of the children.

         I.

         IDHS has been involved with this family since August 2014. At that time, IDHS initiated a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding. That proceeding concluded in October 2016.

         In November 2016, Ambrashia and Anthony's eighteen-month-old child died in the home. The certificate of death listed an "undetermined cause of death with malnutrition and associated neglect" and classified the manner of death as a homicide. Subsequently, the juvenile court entered a temporary removal order for three of the children involved in this case, M.C., A.M., and L.M. The children were placed in foster care.

         Starting in February 2017, both parents participated in supervised visits with the children. Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency Services ("FSRP") specialist Michelle Schuerer supervised these visits. Ambrashia attended the majority of the visits, but Anthony missed most visits. Most of Anthony's absences were due to a conflict between his work schedule and the visitation schedule.

         The parents never progressed past supervised visits due to Schuerer's concerns for the health and safety of the children. Schuerer had concerns regarding the condition of the parents' home. The house was cluttered and unsanitary. Dog feces, urine, and vomit were on the floor throughout the house. Dog feces was found on a toddler's bed. Trash and rotting food products were about the house. The house was infested with gnats and flies. Cleaning products and electrical cords were left within reach of the children. Storage totes were stacked in the dining room. A wax warmer was left on the floor. On one occasion, L.M. burned himself on the wax warmer. For the most part, the parents did not provide adequate meals for the children.

         In March 2017, Ambrashia gave birth to A.M., the youngest child involved in this termination proceeding. The child's cord blood tested positive for THC. The child was immediately removed from the parents' care and placed in foster care with his siblings. In March and April of 2017, ...


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