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In re J.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF J.K. and M.K., Minor Children, J.K., Mother, Appellant, D.K., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J. Tabor, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately challenge the termination of their parental rights.

          Lori J. Kieffer-Garrison, Davenport, for appellant mother. J. David Zimmerman, Clinton, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Brian Donnelly, Clinton, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ. Tabor, J.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         A mother and father separately challenge the termination of their parental rights to their two children.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         J.K. was born in 2009 and M.K. was born in 2014. Both parents have a history of alcohol abuse of approximately twenty years. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) has had extensive involvement with the parents and the two children, including returning confirmed and founded reports of denial of critical care against the mother in June, September, and December 2011; July 2013; and October 2015. DHS also returned founded reports of denial of critical care against the father in September and December 2011 and July 2013. All reports against the parents involved the parents' abuse of alcohol. One report included the parents' use of illegal substances in addition to alcohol. The parents often drank to the point of passing out while the children were in their care. The father has been arrested on multiple occasions in relation to his alcohol abuse.

         The parties separated in 2015 and shared physical care of the children under an informal arrangement. In late 2016, they reunited, in violation of an existing no-contact order. In February 2017, DHS received a report the father was intoxicated and physically assaulted the mother with the children present. The father was subsequently arrested. DHS returned a founded report of denial of critical care against the father. In May, DHS received a report that the mother left the children unsupervised. When found, the mother was intoxicated and unresponsive in an apartment that was not hers and M.K. was wandering down the hallway of the apartment building. J.K. was staying at a friend's house at the time. The mother reported she began drinking in the morning, took anxiety medication at some point, and does not remember when she passed out. She awoke to the police talking to her. The mother was arrested and ultimately pled guilty to child endangerment. DHS returned a founded report of denial of critical care against the mother. The mother attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and domestic-violence counseling in June and began outpatient treatment in July. In September, the mother was arrested for driving under the influence. The children were not in her care at that time.

         The court adjudicated the children to be in need of assistance (CINA) in September. The court ordered the children to remain in the temporary custody of the parents, subject to DHS supervision. In late September, the mother entered inpatient treatment after DHS received reports that she was consuming alcohol while caring for the children. DHS placed the children with the father, who, at that time, resided in a shelter due to a struggle to maintain his housing. The mother had overnight visits twice per week. In November, the court continued custody with the parents according to their shared-custody arrangement.

         In January 2018, the father allowed the children to travel out of state with his brother, defying a court order prohibiting out-of-state travel without the court's permission. The father also allowed an individual with substance-abuse issues to reside with him for a few days without prior DHS approval. The mother was aware of this individual but did not inform DHS for fear the children would be placed in foster care. In late January, the father contacted DHS to remove the children as he could no longer take care of them. Ultimately, both parents voluntarily placed the children into foster care. The court subsequently modified the dispositional order to reflect the foster-care placement. At the time of the termination hearing, the children remained in foster care.

         Both parents' visitations began as partially supervised. The mother was able to progress to having multiple overnight visits while the father's visitation remained virtually the same. Both parents struggled to maintain stable employment throughout the pendency of the case. Further, both parents struggled to maintain healthy relationships as both parents' paramours often had their own alcohol- or substance-abuse issues to manage. The children's guardian ad litem (GAL) reported to the court in May that the parents were not fully engaged in services and were slow to respond to ...


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