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In re L.D.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF L.D., Minor Child, A.D., Mother, Appellant, J.D., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Hancock County, Karen Kaufman Salic, District Associate Judge.

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

          Michael J. Moeller of Sorensen & Moeller Law Office, Clear Lake, for appellant mother.

          Theodore J. Hovda, Garner, for appellant father.

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

          Carrie J. Rodriguez of Garland & Rodriguez, Garner, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Bower, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          DANILSON, Senior Judge.

         The mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) (2018). The mother contends the statutory grounds have not been shown, termination of parental rights is not in the child's best interests, and her close bond with the child should preclude termination. The father argues termination of his parental rights is not in the child's best interests. He, too, contends the closeness of the parent-child relationship should preclude termination.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The family came to the attention of the department of human services (DHS) in late 2017 after the execution of a search warrant at the family home, where numerous controlled substances and paraphernalia were found. The child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) due to her parents' drug use and the impact it had on her care. In the December 8, 2017 CINA adjudication order, the juvenile court ordered:

In order to demonstrate progress toward case closure, parents shall be consistent with discipline, expectations and structure for the benefit of the child, provide for the child's financial needs through employment income, maintain a safe and appropriate home and actively engage in the child's life, including maintaining contact with and being responsive to the concerns of the child's teachers, daycare personnel, medical providers and other persons who have on-going contact with the child.

         Initially, the parents were cooperative and active in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment. They were attending couples counseling. At the dispositional hearing, their progress was noted and the child was allowed to stay with the parents in the home.

         Unfortunately, after the dispositional hearing, the relationship conflicts between the parents escalated, as did their drug use. The mother was trying to work with law enforcement as an informant, and she simply could not manage that and her other obligations. The father assaulted the mother in front of L.D. and her sister-the mother relying on L.D.'s seven-year-old sister to call 911. A no-contact order was issued but the two parents violated it numerous times, and the father assaulted the mother again. Both parents admitted to relapsing in their methamphetamine use. Consequently, on May 3, 2018, the children were removed from the parents' custody. L.D. was placed with a maternal uncle and his wife. Her sister was placed with her biological father.

In an August 17, 2018 review order, the juvenile court observed:
[L.D.] remains with her aunt and uncle and is doing well. Her speech has improved significantly. Unfortunately, they have identified that they are not a long-term placement option for [L.D.] because of the complications presented by on-going family contact with [the] mother. . . . [The] mother meets with [Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency] FSRP fairly regularly, but continues to struggle with her sobriety. She is not willing to return to inpatient after her earlier failed attempt. She is not working, relies on her father for financial support and her criminal charges have not been resolved.
The problems for which the court became involved have not resolved. The level of compliance by family members is ...

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