IN THE INTEREST OF I.R., Minor Child, K.G., Mother, Appellant, B.Y., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Seymour, District Associate Judge.
mother and father separately challenge the termination of
their parental rights to their child.
Knight of Carr Law Firm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant
M. Keller, Altoona, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Jellineck of Juvenile Public Defender's Office, Des
Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
Background Facts and Proceedings
and B.Y. are the parents of I.R., born in November 2016. At
the time of the child's birth, M.R. was believed to be
the father of I.R. The child came to the attention of the
Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in August 2017 after
the child was brought to the hospital with significant head
and arm bruising. The child was in M.R.'s care, and he
claimed the child accidentally fell when he was in a
different room. M.R. told DHS that after he dropped the
mother off at school, he had returned to his home with the
child. He left the child sleeping while strapped into a car
seat on the floor of the living room while he went to use the
restroom. After about five minutes, he noticed the child
crawling toward him. He claimed the child, who was nine
months old at that time, was able to undo the straps and
leave the car seat without assistance. He then took the child
back into the living room and returned to the restroom when
he heard a loud thump. He told DHS that when he went to
investigate, he found the child face down by a plant stand
near the front door of the residence. Sometime later, when he
was changing the child's diaper, he noticed the child was
favoring one arm and there was bruising on the child's
face. M.R. contacted the mother to report what had happened
and, after the mother returned from school, they sought
staff did not find M.R.'s explanation consistent with the
child's injuries and called DHS to investigate. After a
preliminary investigation, DHS recommended the child be
allowed to stay with the mother at her home. It was
determined M.R. would not be allowed to care for the child
until DHS concluded its final investigation. Initially, the
mother and M.R. cooperated with DHS. However, as the safety
planning progressed, both became uncooperative. When DHS and
the mother attempted to leave the hospital with the child,
M.R. and M.R.'s father became involved and refused to
allow them to leave with the child. This included grabbing
the child's carrier and refusing to let go. The mother
made no effort to stop M.R. and M.R.'s father. Instead,
she argued they had a right to have the child. The situation
escalated to the point that hospital security was called and,
eventually, the police. The police ultimately conducted an
following day, the State sought and the court granted the
removal of the child from the mother's and M.R.'s
care given the allegation of physical abuse against M.R., the
mother's denial of the abuse, and her inability to
demonstrate that she could keep the child safe in her care.
The court transferred temporary custody of the child to DHS
for foster-care placement and DHS provided supervised
visitation. The child has remained in foster care since her
removal. In September, DHS finished its investigation and
returned a founded child-abuse assessment against M.R. for
physical abuse. The court adjudicated the child in need of
assistance (CINA) in October, and the child remained in DHS
February 2018, paternity testing ruled M.R. out as the
child's biological father. M.R. stated he wished to
remain in the child's life but stopped attending
visitations within a month and stopped engaging in services.
In March, the mother reported the relationship with M.R. was
over. However in April, M.R. was arrested while in the
mother's car. M.R. was in the possession of drugs at that
time. Testing confirmed B.Y. to be the child's biological
father. The father was incarcerated at that time on pending
criminal charges. He eventually pled guilty to identity
theft, malicious prosecution, and forgery. The father was
sentenced to five years in prison and remained incarcerated
at the time of the termination hearing. He is not expected to
be released until 2020.
the permanency hearing, the court noted the mother's
progress in obtaining housing and employment in addition to
starting to take responsibility for her failure to believe
M.R. physically abused the child. The court was informed that
on multiple occasions the mother allowed the father to visit
with the child through video streaming without DHS
authorization or supervision. These calls occurred during the
mother's visits supervised by family members and not by
professional supervisors. The court found these interactions
"did not place the child at risk for harm but called
into question Mother's reported progress regarding
increased protective capacity." The court also found ...