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In re E.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 20, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF E.K. and A.P., Minor Children, H.P., Father, Appellant, S.K., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for O'Brien County, David C. Larson, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately challenge the termination of their parental rights. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Tobias A. Cosgrove, Sibley, for appellant father.

          Kevin J. Huyser, Orange City, for appellant mother.

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

          Shannon Sandy of Sandy Law Firm, P.C., Spirit Lake, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

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

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The mother and father are the parents of E.K., born in 2009, and A.P., born in 2013. The mother and father have been in an on-and-off-again relationship for years. In 2014, the family was investigated by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), which resulted in founded child-abuse assessments against both parents for denial of critical care. The assessment against the father was the result of a domestic abuse incident in December 2013, during which the father choked the mother while she was holding A.P. The father was charged with domestic abuse and child endangerment. The assessment against the mother was the result of her selling drugs out of the home in May 2014 while the children were present. The children remained with the father after the assessment against the mother because he was able to show he could care for the children at that time.

         The family again came to the attention of DHS in May 2017 upon reports that the father was using methamphetamine while he was the children's primary caretaker. DHS also received reports that the father's home was unsafe and the children had been subjected to domestic violence between the parents. There were also reports that E.K. had missed a significant amount of school and A.P. had rotten teeth. When DHS made an unannounced visit at the father's home, he refused to allow entry and exhibited physical indicators of drug use, including being very thin to the point his face was sunken, agitation, paranoia, and visible sores on his body. The father also allowed the mother to spend time with the children despite his awareness of her drug use as he deemed "there [was] nothing wrong with [the mother]." The father refused to cooperate any further, including refusing to allow drug testing, and he wanted no further contact from DHS. DHS also received police reports indicating the father was actively using and selling drugs in addition to begging local drug dealers for methamphetamine. Following an investigation, DHS returned a founded child-abuse assessment against the father for denial of critical care. The children were allowed to remain with the father because, though the children were at high risk for harm, there was insufficient evidence to support imminent danger.

         In June, the State petitioned for the children to be adjudicated in need of assistance (CINA), and the court set the adjudication hearing for July. At the time of the adjudication hearing, the mother was believed to be homeless and an active methamphetamine user. After arriving for the hearing, the mother was arrested at the courthouse on an outstanding warrant. The State and DHS also requested the father complete drug testing, which he refused. After his refusal, the State sought the children's removal, which the court granted. The court transferred temporary custody of the children to DHS for placement in foster care. The father filed a notice of appeal and requested a stay pending a full removal hearing.[1] The court consequently continued the adjudicatory hearing until September.

         Subsequent hair-stat testing of the children was negative for any illegal substances, while the father's drug test was positive for methamphetamine. The paternal grandmother communicated to the children's foster mother that A.P. needed to be seen by a dentist because during one of the mother's rages, she attempted to punch the father but A.P. was caught in the middle and the mother hit the child in the mouth. The children also reported to the foster mother that they witnessed domestic violence between the parents, including an incident in which the father punched and pinned the mother down. Further, E.K. reported to the foster mother that there was no running water at the ...


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