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In re Z.P.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF Z.P., R.M., J.M., and I.M., Minor Children, R.M., Father, Appellant, T.P., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Colin J. Witt, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and a father separately appeal from the termination of their parental rights to four children. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Randall L. Jackson, Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Yvonne C. Naanep, Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meredith Lamberti, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Nicole Garbis Nolan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         A mother and a father separately appeal from the termination of their parental rights to four children: Z.P., born March 2013; R.M., born May 2014; J.M., born April 2015; and I.M. born March 2016. The court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(b), (e), and (g) (2018). The mother asserts termination of the father's rights was improper and argues termination of both parents' rights is not in the children's best interests. With respect to the father, the court found termination was proper under section 232.116(1)(g). The father contends grounds for termination do not exist, he should be granted a six-month extension, and his close bond with the children should prevent the termination of his parental rights. We affirm on both appeals.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The children came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) in April 2015[1] because J.M. was born prematurely and tested positive for THC at birth.[2] At the time of J.M.'s birth, the family was homeless, neither parent was working, and the paternal grandmother was assisting with transportation. Z.P.'s twin, X.P., was residing at Child Serve due to his medically-fragile condition and the parents' inability to care for him. DHS offered the family services.

         On July 21, 2015, a child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) adjudication and dispositional order was entered concerning Z.P., R.M., and J.M. In a July 10, 2015 report to the juvenile court, DHS social worker, Pam Battle, noted both parents had substance-abuse evaluations; the mother was found to have a severe cannabis use disorder and the father a mild cannabis disorder. Both had tested positive for THC. It was recommended that both undergo treatment. At the time of the report, the family had found housing, employment, and transportation. The children had been admitted to a daycare. A family safety, risk, and permanency (FSRP) worker was visiting the family twice per week. The juvenile court found the children were CINA and ordered the children remain in the parents' care and services continue.

         X.P. had also been adjudicated CINA. An August 18, 2015 FSRP service plan noted there was no bond between X.P. and the parents. The service plan also noted the parents needed to address their substance-abuse issues, engage in mental-health therapy, and "shall not make up excuses about following DHS recommendation[s] and what the court has ordered of them."

         On August 31, the State sought to remove the three children from the parents' custody. The motion to modify placement asserted: "The parents have not complied with substance abuse treatment, both parents continue to test positive for THC while being the sole caretakers of the children, the most recent positives being 8/18/2015 and 8/20/2015, and the mother has not informed the DHS of the status of her mental health evaluation."

         On September 2, the court ordered temporary custody of the children be placed with the paternal grandmother, under DHS supervision.

         Social Worker Battle's September 28, 2015 report to the court noted that both parents continued to test positive for THC. Both parents had completed a substance-abuse evaluation, but neither had followed through with recommended treatment. The father was unemployed. The parents were in temporary housing. DHS had provided them with an application for subsidized housing. The grandmother and the children were living in temporary housing (an extended-stay motel) awaiting a new apartment.

         On October 20, the juvenile court issued a CINA review ruling in which it expressed concern for the current relative placement. The court noted that if more suitable housing was not found quickly, family foster care "may need to be sought." The parents were informed they needed to cooperate with substance-abuse testing and treatment. On October 28, the juvenile court placed the children in family foster care due to the "instability of their current placement."

         On November 22, 2015, the juvenile court terminated the parents' parental rights to X.P., to which the parents consented. The termination order states in part:

The undersigned became aware of [X.P.] in November 2014 upon the filing of a child welfare petition. He was adjudicated in need of assistance, out of home disposition entered, and reunification is deemed not advisable by medical personnel and really not possible given the record and the parents' lack of minimal adequacy for this particular child. The parents have not cooperated with services to be able to meet this unique child's unique and special medical needs.

         On December 17, 2015, a CINA review hearing concerning Z.P., R.M., and J.M. was held. The mother and grandmother had obtained housing together-a four-bedroom home. The mother was making some progress in her substance-abuse treatment. The father, however, went to jail on October 28 for a probation violation and would not be released until January 25, 2016.

         On February 19, 2016, a family team meeting was held. The mother and father reported they were clean-the mother since December 14, and the father since October 28. The father was informed that until he obtained a substance-abuse evaluation, he could not progress to semi-supervised visits.

         The March CINA review hearing was continued. The mother gave birth to the couple's fifth child, I.M., in March 2016. The child's umbilical cord blood tested positive for THC. The mother acknowledged relapsing and two subsequent urinalysis (UA) screens were positive for THC but at declining levels. The father progressed to ...


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