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In re T.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.M., Minor Child, C.M., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lynn Poschner, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights. AFFIRMED.

          Shireen L. Carter of Shireen Carter Law Office, PLC, Norwalk, for appellant father.

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

          Kimberly Ayotte of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         A father appeals a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights. The father claims the State did not prove a ground for termination, an exception to termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(3) (2018) applies, and termination is not in the child's best interest. We find the State established a ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence, no exception to termination applies, and termination is in the child's best interest.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         C.M. is the father of T.M., born in 2010.[1] On April 25, 2018, T.M. was removed from the father's care due to the father's substance abuse while caring for the child. The child had been removed twice before and was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) from 2011-2013 and 2016-2017. Each time, the father participated in treatment programs and T.M. was returned to his care. The father's rights were terminated to a child before T.M. was born and another child was placed with the child's mother in a different state during the 2016 CINA case.

         The father relapsed on methamphetamine in the summer of 2017 shortly after the second CINA case concluded and continued using illegal substances through the time of removal. In November 2017, the father placed the child in the care of an ex-paramour, the mother of one of T.M.'s younger siblings. In early April 2018, the father moved T.M. to the care of a cousin who had been a placement for T.M. in 2016. On May 23, the father stipulated to a CINA adjudication and placement of the child with the cousin.

         In June 2018, the father admitted to using methamphetamine and marijuana multiple times a day as well as the occasional use of cocaine since July 2017. At hearings in May, June, and September, the father reported ceasing use of illegal substances, recently completing substance-abuse evaluations, and making plans to enter treatment. He never took any action to begin a substance-abuse-treatment program, refused drug testing in September, and did not engage in recommended mental-health therapy.

         In September, the father's current paramour and their new baby both tested positive for opiates. The baby and the paramour's older child were removed from the home due to the substance abuse of both parents. The father and his paramour attempted to sign up for outpatient treatment on December 4, but current evaluations had not been provided to the treatment center.

         The court held a termination hearing on December 5. The court heard testimony from the father and the social worker. At the hearing, the father testified he had not been using drugs at the time of the removal and lied on his evaluations to get into treatment. He repeatedly said he was unsure of the last day he used any illegal substance. The father demonstrated a lack of awareness of the effects of his drug usage resulting in removal; he claimed he has not put the child in danger and has been a positive parent while using drugs. He testified he was now willing to participate in the requested services because he realized the child might not return to his care. The social worker, who had worked with the family through the 2016-2017 CINA case as well, testified the father's actions showed an unwillingness to make permanent changes and ...


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