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In re A.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 23, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.K., Minor Child, J.T., Mother, Appellant, J.K., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clayton County, Linnea M.N. Nicol, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their now two-year-old daughter.

          John J. Sullivan of Sullivan Law Office, P.C., Oelwein, for appellant mother.

          Cory R. Gonzales, Strawberry Point, for appellant father.

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

          Kimberly S. Lange of Kimberly S. Lange Law Office, Edgewood, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The juvenile court granted the State's petition to terminate the parental rights of Jennifer and John to their younger daughter, A.K, but dismissed the petition to terminate their rights to their older daughter, P.K.[1] Jennifer and John both appeal, seeking to preserve their relationship with now two-year-old A.K. Each raise the same two claims: (1) the State failed to offer clear-and-convincing proof A.K. could not be returned home, and (2) termination was not in A.K.'s best interest because of the closeness of the parent-child relationship. After our independent review of the record, we reach the same conclusion as the juvenile court.[2] The parents did not show adequate progress in supervised visitation or random drug testing to ensure A.K. could be safely returned to their care. In addition, A.K.'s bond with her parents was not a reason to forego termination. Accordingly, we affirm the termination order.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         A.K. was born in January 2017. Five months later, her family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) when allegations Jennifer and John were using methamphetamine in the presence of A.K. and P.K. surfaced. As a result of the exposure, A.K. tested positive for the drug in her system. The DHS also learned John struck Jennifer in the presence of the children. The State charged John with domestic abuse assault, and the criminal court imposed a no-contact order. In June 2017, the juvenile court approved removal of the children from their home. They were placed in family foster care. The juvenile court adjudicated A.K. and P.K. as children in need of assistance (CINA) in July 2017.

         Despite being told it was an expectation of the DHS case permanency plan, neither parent obtained substance-abuse or mental-health evaluations before the October 2017 dispositional hearing. John completed a dual substance abuse evaluation in February 2018; Jennifer finished the assessments in March 2018. Neither parent complied with random drug testing. And both parents missed numerous scheduled interactions with their children. By the March review hearing, both Jennifer and John faced criminal charges. The State charged them with felony possession of stolen property and accused John of selling methamphetamine to an undercover police officer. In late March, the State filed its petition to terminate parental rights.

         The juvenile court held a joint hearing on contested permanency and termination of parental rights in late July 2018. The DHS social worker and Families First service provider both testified for the State. The court also heard from Jennifer and John, who resisted termination. In early November, the court issued its order terminating the parents' legal relationship with A.K. under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018).

         II. ...


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