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In re S.B.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF S.B., Minor Child, J.B., 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 in his child.

          David A. Morse of Law Offices of David A. Morse, Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Mike Bandstra, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

          MAHAN, SENIOR JUDGE.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child, S.B. He contends the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) failed to provide services to enable reunification. Upon our review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         This family came to the attention of IDHS after S.B. sought medical treatment for injuries inflicted by the father. The father found then fourteen-year-old S.B. in the family home with a boy. He became upset and struck S.B. several times with the buckle end of a belt, breaking the buckle. He also choked her. S.B. fled to the home's second floor and eventually jumped from a second-story window to escape. She has not returned to the father's care since this incident.

         The beating left marks on S.B.'s body for several days; some marks remained visible more than twenty days later. S.B. also initially required a neck brace due to neck injuries from the choking. IDHS placed S.B. with the father's former girlfriend, Y.B., and the juvenile court adjudicated S.B. a child in need of assistance due to the father's physical abuse. Following removal, the father engaged in services. He participated in an anger-management program, a parenting class, and sought therapy with three different providers. However, no visitation occurred due to a no-contact order between the father and S.B.

         The State petitioned to terminate the father's parental rights to S.B. Following a hearing, the court granted the petition pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d), (e), (f), and (i) (2018). The father appeals.[1]

          II. Scope and Standard of Review

         Our review is de novo. See In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). We are not bound by the juvenile court's factual findings, but we give them weight, especially when witness credibility is critical to the outcome. See id. Proof must be clear and convincing, meaning there are no "serious or substantial doubts as to the correctness [of] conclusions of law drawn from the evidence." In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010). "[R]eview of termination of parental rights under Iowa Code chapter 232 is a three-step analysis." M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 219. First, we determine if "any ground for termination under section 232.116(1) has been established." Id. If a statutory ground authorizing termination has been established, then we consider whether termination in is the child's best interest. See id. at 219-20. "Finally, if we do find that the ...


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