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In re A.G.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.G., Minor Child, B.G., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Decatur County, Monty Franklin, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          REVERSED AND REMANDED. Jenna K. Lain of The Law Office of Jenna K. Lain, PLLC, Corydon, for appellant father.

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

          Bryan J. Tingle of Tingle Law Office, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child, born in 2015. He contends (1) the State failed to prove the ground for termination cited by the district court and (2) termination is not in the child's best interests. We find the first issue dispositive.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The child came to the attention of the department of human services in early 2017 on information that the mother was using methamphetamine while caring for her. The father also admitted to illicit drug use. The district court ordered the child removed from the parents' care and later adjudicated her in need of assistance. The child was placed with the father's sister.

         The department afforded the father supervised visits with the child twice each week. According to the department social worker assigned to the case, his participation was initially "inconsistent," but within two months of the child's removal, his attendance became "more regular."

         The department recommended that the father "complete[] a substance abuse and a mental health evaluation and follow[] all recommendations, including drug testing." Again, the father was slow to comply but, within five months of the child's removal, the department reported he had scheduled a substance-abuse evaluation. The department also reported the father's participation in visits and services had "increased and been more consistent over time" and he "appear[ed] to be bonded" with his child.

         The father completed a substance-abuse evaluation in short order, which culminated in a recommendation "that he attend [a] Substance Abuse Extended Outpatient Program." The father agreed to do so. He initially tested negative for all substances, later had two positive tests for benzodiazepines, and finally tested negative for all tested substances.

         Shortly thereafter, the district court granted the father six additional months to work toward reunification. The court conditioned reunification on "consistent participation" in services and "continued participation . . . with mental health and substance abuse treatment and continued participation in visits." The court also ordered ...


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