IN THE INTEREST OF P.J. and D.J., Minor Children, P.J., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Gary P.
Strausser, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights in two
AFFIRMED. Jeannette Keller of Bowman, DePree & Murphy,
West Liberty, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
J. Metcalf, Muscatine, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights in his
two children, D.J., born in August 2010, and P.J., born in
August 2013. He challenges one of the two grounds for
termination, argues the State failed to make reasonable
efforts to set up in-person visitation between him and the
children, contends termination is not in the best interests
of the children, and argues the children's placement with
relatives should preclude the termination of his parental
children (and four half-siblings who are not part of this
proceeding) were removed by court order from the parents'
care in December 2016 upon reports that the parents were
engaging in substance abuse and that their bedroom contained
methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. D.J., P.J., and two
siblings were placed with their maternal grandparents. They
have remained in that placement without any home trials since
own admission, the father was addicted to prescribed
hydrocodone from 2015 to 2017 and began using methamphetamine
when he did not have access to hydrocodone. He was diagnosed
with amphetamine abuse and cannabis abuse disorder. He was
scheduled to be admitted for intensive outpatient treatment
for substance abuse but failed to show up for any
the parties' stipulation, the children were adjudicated
children in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.2(6)(n) (2017) on February 16, 2017. The children's
placement in the care of their maternal grandparents
continued. On March 9, a dispositional hearing was held, and
on March 15, the court continued the children's placement
with their grandparents. The juvenile court noted the father
had been arrested twice for possession of drug paraphernalia
since the adjudication hearing and arrested for attempted
murder following the dispositional hearing.
father remained in custody following his arrest. On July 7,
he pleaded guilty to willful injury resulting in bodily
injury as a habitual offender and was sentenced to a
five-year term in prison. This was the father's third
incarceration over an almost twenty-year period, all of which
the father admitted were related to his substance-abuse
issues. While the father was in the county jail and at the
classification center, no visits with his children were
allowed. The father completed a mental-health evaluation at
the classification center. He was diagnosed with
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive
disorder. He was sent to a correctional facility on August
21, 2017. At the correctional facility, the father was
encouraged to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics
Anonymous (NA) but was not required to attend substance-abuse
juvenile court held a termination-of-parental-rights hearing
over the course of two days. The father contested termination
of his rights, complaining the State had failed to make
reasonable efforts at reunification. He asserted no in-person
visits with his children were set up until March 24, 2018,
and that visit had to be rescheduled due to severe winter
weather. He testified he sent letters and cards to the
children. He also testified he telephoned the children
regularly but was often unable to reach them. The father
argued the children were in a safe relative placement and he
should be granted an additional six months because he was
sober, was attending AA and NA ...