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In re C.T.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF C.T., R.T., and C.T., Minor Children, R.T., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan F. Flaherty, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to three children. AFFIRMED.

          David R. Fiester, Cedar Rapids, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Julie Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Methamphetamine use and domestic violence in the home prompted the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to intervene with this family. The juvenile court approved removal of the three children-Co.T., R.T., and Ca.T.- from their parents' care in June 2017. More than one year later, the court terminated parental rights. On appeal, the father, Randy, argues the State failed to offer clear and convincing evidence the children could not be returned to his custody at the present time.[1] See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(f), (h) (2018). In the alternative, he asks for more time to complete the DHS case plan expectations. He also urges termination is not in the children's best interests. And, because they are in the care of their maternal grandmother, Randy believes the children would not suffer harm if we delay permanency.

         After reviewing the record, our conclusions match those of the juvenile court.[2] Despite Randy's recent progress in drug treatment, sufficient evidence supported the statutory grounds for termination. Like the district court, we do not see Iowa Code subsections 232.116(2) or (3) as barriers to termination. Nor do we believe an additional six months would eliminate the need for removal. See Iowa Code § 232.104(2)(b). Accordingly, we affirm the termination order.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Randy and April have three children: Co.T., born in 2008; R.T., born in 2013; and Ca.T., born in 2015. A child-abuse assessment in June 2017 recommended removal of the children based on the parents' abuse of methamphetamine and several incidents where the parents engaged in violence against one another. Since the court approved removal, the children have been in the care of their maternal grandmother. The parents stipulated the children were in need of assistance (CINA) in July 2017.

         Randy continued to use methamphetamine "on and off" for the next year.[3]In March 2018, the police arrested Randy for possession of methamphetamine.[4]In April 2018, during a supervised visit at Randy's home, the youngest child, Ca.T., found a glass pipe with burnt resident behind the couch and put it in her mouth.[5]That same month, Randy received a diagnosis of severe methamphetamine use disorder. He began residential substance-abuse treatment in mid-June 2018 and completed the program in early July, though he left a few days early to attend court hearings. He did not undertake ongoing outpatient treatment as recommended. He testified he was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. At the time of the termination hearing, Randy had logged only about six weeks of sobriety.

         In addition to his substance-abuse struggles, Randy continued his "toxic" relationship with April throughout the CINA case. In April 2018, Randy hit her in the face, splitting her lip. The continuing violence increased the frustration ten- year-old Co.T. felt toward his parents. By the time of the termination hearing, Randy hadn't yet started domestic abuse prevention classes. And social workers were not convinced Randy could end the unhealthy pattern of abuse toward April.

         During most of the CINA case, Randy was inconsistent in his visits with the children, missing an average of two scheduled sessions per month. In the month before the hearing, Randy became more reliable, according to social workers. Overall, his visits went well. Randy was "interactive" with the children, though he had some difficulty handling all three children in public places. The oldest, Co.T., grew reluctant to attend the visits because of his increasing anger toward his parents. The guardian ad litem (GAL) reported, "From [Co.T.'s] perspective he ...


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