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In re T.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 23, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.H., Minor Child, T.H., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Daniel L. Block, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights.

          Mark A. Milder, Waverly, for appellant father.

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

          Michael Lanigan of Law Office of Michael Lanigan, Waterloo, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A father appeals the juvenile court's termination of his parental rights. He claims the State has failed to prove two of the grounds for termination and a guardianship would be in the child's best interest rather than termination of his parental rights. We affirm the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Ta.H., father, and A.S., mother, are the parents of T.H., born in 2017. At that time, the father was nineteen years old and the mother was fifteen years old. The child was born over two months early and tested positive for marijuana at birth. On August 1, 2017, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) removed the child when both parents incurred criminal charges.[1] On August 30, the child was adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2), (n), and (o) (2017). After a brief foster-home placement, the child was placed with the father's aunt and grandmother.

         The father completed a required substance-abuse evaluation in August but failed to complete recommended counseling and drug testing. The parents were allowed daily supervised interactions with the child. Initially, the parents did not consistently attend State-supervised visitation with the child and would visit the child approximately twice a week supervised by family members. In December, the father was arrested on additional charges. After his release in March 2018, the father attended visitation more consistently, but attendance decreased over time. The father did not comply with substance-abuse or mental-health programming recommendations.

         In February 2018, the court granted a six-month extension to the parents to achieve reunification, and a three-month extension in May despite inconsistent cooperation by the parents. In July, the father was re-arrested, then began his term of incarceration for his 2017 offenses.

         On September 4, 2018, the State filed a petition to terminate both parents' rights. The court held a hearing on November 5 and the father testified via telephone. The father requested a guardianship for the child with the paternal aunt, stating he wanted another chance to prove he could be a good father to the child. DHS, the aunt, and the guardian ad litem all requested the father's rights be terminated and the aunt would adopt the child. All parties testified the aunt would allow the father to be in the child's life if he was doing well after his release from prison.

         Ruling from the bench at the hearing, the court noted the father has never been the primary caregiver and a guardianship would not be fair to the child or the family members who have been raising the child. The court's order terminated the father's parental rights ...


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