IN THE INTEREST OF M.K., Minor Child, J.J., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda D.
Belcher, District Associate Judge.
father appeals an order terminating his parental rights to
his two-year-old son.
Alexandra M. Nelissen, Des Moines, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
ConGarry Williams, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
father, Ja'Maur, challenges the juvenile court's
order terminating his parental relationship with his son,
M.K., who was born in September 2016. Ja'Maur argues (1)
the State did not present clear and convincing proof M.K.
could not be safely returned to his care; (2) the State did
not make reasonable efforts to reunite the family; and (3)
termination was not in M.K.'s best interests because the
child would lose "vital connections" with
our independent review of the record,  we reach the same
conclusion as the juvenile court-despite the State's
reasonable efforts, the record revealed "ongoing
concerns about the safety of the child" if returned to
the father's custody. See Iowa Code §§
232.102(12), 232.116(1)(h) (2018). And the evidence supports
a finding that termination was in M.K.'s best interests
despite the existence of a bond with his father and paternal
family. See id. § 232.116(2), (3).
Facts and Prior Proceedings
M.K. was seven months old, the State filed a petition
alleging he was a child in need of assistance (CINA). The
petition alleged M.K.'s mother was the victim of domestic
violence at the hands of her paramour, Stuart. The juvenile
court adjudicated M.K. as a CINA, and the mother consented to
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) removal of M.K.
from her custody in May 2017.
August 2017, paternity testing showed Ja'Maur was
M.K.'s father. In late August, Ja'Maur started weekly
supervised visits with M.K. According to DHS records,
Ja'Maur was inconsistent in his visitation from September
2017 until February 2018. In October 2017, the DHS reported
the existence of allegations of child sexual abuse against
Ja'Maur. In 2012, while living in Missouri, Ja'Maur
was arrested for sexual contact with a child but pleaded
guilty to assault. The juvenile court also considered a
child-abuse assessment from the summer of 2017 in which an
Iowa child protection worker found Ja'Maur had indecent
contact with a twelve-year-old girl he was babysitting.
Despite that history, Ja'Maur failed to complete a
psychosexual evaluation as requested by the DHS.
the CINA case, Ja'Maur did not pursue treatment for his
mental-health diagnoses and could not maintain stable
housing. Additionally, reports from the Family Safety, Risk,
and Permanency (FSRP) worker show Ja'Maur was habitually
late to his visits with M.K. that spring, though when he
arrived his interactions with his son were warm and
2018, the State filed a petition to terminate parental
rights. In August 2018, the juvenile court held a hearing on
the petition. The State offered numerous exhibits in support
of termination but did not present live testimony. The mother
consented to termination of her parental rights. Ja'Maur