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In re D.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 1, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.S. and B.S., Minor Children, M.D., Mother, Appellant, D.S., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Charles D. Fagan, District Associate Judge.

         The parents of two minor children separately appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender Office, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Sara E. Benson of Benson Law, P.C., Council Bluffs, for appellant father.

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

          Maura C. Goaley, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE.

         A father and mother of two children, born in 2016 and 2017, separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. Both challenge the grounds for termination and argue termination was not in the children's best interests. The father also argues the department of human services failed to make reasonable efforts to reunify him with the children.

         I. Grounds for Termination

         The district court terminated parental rights pursuant to several statutory provisions. We may affirm if we find clear and convincing evidence to support any of the grounds. In re S.R., 600 N.W.2d 63, 64 (Iowa Ct. App. 1999). We focus on Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2018), which requires proof of several elements, including proof the children cannot be returned to the parents' custody.

         The department became involved with the family based on a complaint that the children were dirty and "had lice treatment running down their faces" when they were left with a babysitter.[1] Two days after the first complaint, the department learned the parents were evicted from their home and left their children with a friend. The friend reported marks on them.

         The district court removed the children from the parents' custody. The department initiated services to facilitate reunification, including twice-weekly supervised visits with the children. The court subsequently adjudicated the children in need of assistance. The children remained out of parental custody throughout the proceedings.

         The father used illegal drugs and exhibited paranoid behaviors. At the termination hearing, the father's mother testified he was in an inpatient recovery program and would likely remain there for thirty to forty-five days. An employee of the recovery center testified the father was actively participating in the "dual diagnosis" treatment program for substance-abuse and mental-health concerns but he only began inpatient treatment the day before the termination hearing. Although he had not used illegal drugs for two months and his mental-health condition improved with medication, the father was not ...


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