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In re J.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF J.B. and J.B., Minor Children, J.B., Father, Appellant, A.T., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Rose Anne Mefford, District Associate Judge.

         A father and a mother separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. REVERSED AND REMANDED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Dustin D. Hite of Heslinga, Dixon & Hite, Oskaloosa, for appellant father.

          Peter Stiefel, Victor, for appellant mother.

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

          Dusty Clements of Clements Law & Mediation, Newton, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         A father and a mother separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their two children, Ja.B., born in August 2012, and Jo.B., born in February 2016. In light of the parents' notice to the court that they were ill and their lack of representation, the juvenile court abused its discretion in failing to continue the combined permanency and termination hearing and proceeding to terminate the parents' parental rights. We reverse and remand.

         Ja.B. and Jo.B. came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) in December 2016 due to the medical neglect of Ja.B.'s serious medical condition, which required tube-feeding with special food, bi-weekly blood draws for monitoring, and monthly gastrointestinal specialty appointments to ensure proper nutritional intake. The parents had not brought the child in for blood draws on a regular basis and had not brought him for his specialty appointments for two months. DHS provided voluntary services, including a daily home visit from a Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency provider to check on Ja.B.'s condition.

         In April 2017, the father was arrested on controlled-substances charges. The mother and DHS entered into a safety plan, which required the father to live elsewhere. The hearing on the petition to find the children to be children in need of assistance (CINA) was scheduled for April 21. Both parents attended and some evidence was presented. However, the matter was continued because a State's witness was ill. The court ordered further hearing for June 14.

         On May 10, law enforcement officers were called to the mother's home and the children were removed. An emergency removal hearing was scheduled for May 15 but was rescheduled for May 18. Both parents attended. The matter was not concluded on May 18, however, and a further hearing was set. The juvenile court issued an interim removal order, noting the parents admitted not following the safety plan, the mother admitted marijuana use, the father admitted methamphetamine use, and the police had found methamphetamine and marijuana paraphernalia in the family home accessible to the children.

         On June 16, 2017, following a June 14 removal and adjudicatory hearing, the court found the children to be in need of assistance. The court noted concerns of medical neglect, substance abuse, the father's pending criminal charges and absence from the state, significant developmental delays for both children, injuries on Ja.B. that raised concerns of physical abuse, and the mother's failure to comply with drug testing. The mother attended the June 14 hearing; the father did not.

         In August 2017, the mother sought to have new counsel appointed. On August 11, a dispositional hearing was held and both parents were present. The court denied the mother's motion for new counsel and entered a ...


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