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In re A.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.C., G.W., and E.G., Minor Children, L.W.-M., Mother, Appellant, G.C., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jefferson County, William Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother and father appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Mary Baird Krafka of Krafka Law Office, Ottumwa, for appellant mother. Shawn C. McCullough of Powell & McCullough, PLC, Coralville, for appellant father.

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

          Katie E.M. Lujan of Lloyd, McConnell, Davis & Lujan, L.L.P., Washington, guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          BOWER, Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights to their children A.C., G.W., and E.C. The mother claims the court abused its discretion by denying the mother's motion to continue the termination hearing and her motion to suspend the proceedings. The mother and father both claim the juvenile court should have granted them an additional six months to work toward reunification and termination is not in the children's best interests. We find the court did not abuse its discretion, a six-month extension is not warranted, and termination is in the children's best interests.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         G.C. and L.W. are the parents to three children: A.C., born in 2013; G.W., born in 2015, and E.C., born in 2016. E.C. also has a legal father, D.M.[1]

         The family initially came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in July 2017, following a report they allowed a registered sex offender to have unsupervised contact with the children. An investigation revealed the report was no longer a concern, but the DHS worker discovered the home's condition was not safe for the children. The home did not have running water or working plumbing, the kitchen sink was full of old and moldy food, a large pile of garbage was on the kitchen floor, and feces were ground into the floors and carpets. Containers of chemicals and sharp tools were found mixed in with the children's toys on the front porch of the home. The children were permitted to stay in the home conditioned on the parents completing a list of repairs to make the home safe. The DHS worker also became concerned the parents were using illegal drugs, and the parents admitted to marijuana use but denied using while caring for the children. Neither parent participated in drug testing.

         In September, DHS received a report the mother had been arrested for theft and possession of methamphetamine and the father was using methamphetamine. DHS discovered the father and the children had moved in with the father's mother. On September 28, the children were removed from the parents' care and placed with their paternal grandmother.

         On December 6, the court adjudicated all three children in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2017). DHS also discovered pending domestic-abuse charges against the mother, and the mother confirmed domestic violence between the parents while claiming the children had not witnessed any altercations. The parents were evicted from their home in December. On December 19, the children were moved to the home of a maternal aunt due to concerns over the grandmother's ability to care for the children.

         Following a January 2018 dispositional hearing, the children were placed in three separate homes: A.C. with the grandmother, E.C. with the aunt, and G.W. with a third relative. E.C. was moved back to the grandmother's home with A.C. in April. The ...


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