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In re A.P.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

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

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Jason A. Burns, District Associate Judge.

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

          Rachel Antonuccio of Iowa City Public Defender's Office, Iowa City, for appellant mother.

          John J. Bishop, Cedar Rapids, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Anthony A. Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., Mullins, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          DOYLE, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother and a father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their child. They each challenge the sufficiency of the evidence proving the grounds for termination. The mother also contends the State failed to make reasonable efforts to return the child to her care and asks us to apply one of the exceptions to the termination statute to avoid termination of her parental rights. The father contends termination of his parental rights is contrary to the child's best interests. We review their claims de novo. See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472 (Iowa 2018).

         The child was born in 2017 and required hospitalization for the first months of life because of medical conditions associated with premature birth. Ongoing specialized medical treatment is required for the child's chronic medical conditions. Following concerns about their ability to care for the child, the parents consented to the child's placement in foster care upon discharge and stipulated to a child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) adjudication.

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) provided services to the parents to help them learn how to provide the necessary care for the child and the child's medical conditions. After six months, the juvenile court granted the parents additional time to have the child returned to their care, finding a reasonable likelihood that the need for the child's removal would no longer exist at the end of that period. However, the concerns that led to the child's removal continued, and the State petitioned to terminate parental rights. After a termination hearing, the court ordered the DHS to provide the parents extended visits with the child to allow the parents the opportunity to demonstrate they could care for the child and provide for the child's medical needs, and it reopened the termination record to include information learned during the extended visits. Ultimately, the juvenile court terminated both the mother's and the father's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018).

         Both the mother and the father challenge the sufficiency of the evidence establishing the grounds for terminating their parental rights. In order to terminate under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h), the State must prove the following by clear and convincing evidence:

(1)The child is three years of age or younger.
(2) The child has been adjudicated a child in need of assistance pursuant ...

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