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In re T.A.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.A., Minor Child, A.M., Mother, Appellant, D.P., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Romonda Belcher, District Associate Judge.

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

          Nicholas Dial of Dial Law Office, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Nicholas A. Bailey of Bailey Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Altoona, for appellant father.

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

          ConGarry D. Williams of Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child, T.A., born in July 2017. Parental rights were terminated pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018) as to both parents, 232.116(1)(l) as to the mother, and 232.116(1)(e) as to the father. On appeal, both parents argue the State did not prove the grounds for termination and the district court improperly denied their requests for an additional six months to achieve reunification. The father additionally argues termination is not in the child's best interest, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification, and the district court should have placed the child in a guardianship to avoid termination.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         T.A. was removed from the mother's care on August 1, 2017, due to the presence of amphetamine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of marijuana, in the child's body at birth. The mother admitted to using methamphetamine and marijuana throughout her pregnancy. The mother left the child in the hospital without naming the child or signing the birth certificate. She initially consented to the child's removal. In October, T.A. was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) and paternity was established. A dispositional hearing was held in November. The mother's untreated substance-abuse issues were a concern. T.A. remained in foster care.

         A review hearing was held in February 2018. T.A. remained in the custody of DHS due to the mother's untreated substance-abuse issues and homelessness. A permanency hearing was held in August, and the State filed a petition to terminate. The mother and father requested and were denied a six-month extension. A termination hearing was held in October.

         The mother has significant substance-abuse issues and reported she has been a regular user of methamphetamine and marijuana since adolescence. She was arrested in February 2018 and again in June for possession of methamphetamine. In August, at the permanency hearing, the mother still did not have employment, housing, or transportation. The mother admitted to using marijuana and methamphetamine two weeks before the October termination hearing. At the time of the termination hearing, the mother had been engaged in residential substance-abuse treatment for two weeks, which was a condition of her plea agreement for possession of methamphetamine.

         The father did not learn T.A. was his child until after T.A.'s birth, at which time the father was in jail on pending criminal charges. The father was subsequently sentenced and incarcerated. While he requested visitation in prison, the district court determined due to T.A.'s age, the distance to the father's prison, the lack of prior contact, and the prison's visitation facilities, visitation was not appropriate. After the father was released to a halfway house, he violated his parole within ...


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