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In re J.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF J.R., D.R., and H.R., Minor Children, R.J.R., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Kevin Parker, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals a permanency order placing his two children in a guardianship. AFFIRMED.

          Blake D. Lubinus of Lubinus Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          M. Kathryn Miller of Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         A father appeals a permanency order placing his two children, born in 2004 and 2005, in a guardianship.[1] He contends (A) the record lacks clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds for a guardianship and a guardianship is not in the children's best interest; (B) the district court should not have entered a dispositional order without the benefit of a social investigation report; (C) his attorney was ineffective in failing to appeal the dispositional order; and (D) the district court erred in denying his motion to enlarge and amend its findings and conclusions.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The case began after law enforcement officers visited a home to conduct a welfare check. They found the house to be "uninhabitable." According to a report, it "was in complete disarray and filthy," with "[t]rash . . . everywhere" and an "overwhelming," "foul odor," of "trash, feces, and urine." The toilet "consisted of a five-gallon pail with a hole in the lid." The kitchen was filled with "numerous containers of spoiled food and unknown substances." The house lacked continuous running water and electricity, which were dependent on a manually-activated backyard generator. Following the inspection, law enforcement officers contacted the department of human services about the children in the home.

         The district court ordered the children to be temporarily removed. They were placed with a relative. The State subsequently petitioned to have them adjudicated in need of assistance. At the adjudicatory hearing, the department case manager testified the mother had "a considerable history of approximately three years-ish of methamphetamine use" and the children saw both parents using the drug. The district court adjudicated the children in need of assistance.

         At a later dispositional hearing, the father stipulated to all but one of the department's recommendations. Specifically, the father agreed to continued adjudication of the children as in need of assistance; continued placement of the children with the relative; and participation in reunification services including mental health and substance-abuse counseling, and scheduled visitation, pursuit of sobriety, and maintenance of an appropriate living environment. He reserved one issue which, in his view, implicated the department's obligation to make reasonable reunification efforts. The district court confirmed the adjudication and left the children in the relative's care. Following another hearing, the court rejected the parents' challenge to the State's reunification efforts. In the end, the court filed a permanency order transferring custody and guardianship of the children to the relative. The court reasoned "the age of the children, bond established, and potential loss of public benefits and inheritance" militated in favor of this option rather than termination of parental rights. The father appealed.[2]

         II. Analysis

         A. Grounds ...


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