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In re A.W.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 5, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.W., H.D., J.D., and L.D., Minor Children, B.D., Mother, Appellant, H.D., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Taylor County, Monty Franklin, District Associate Judge.

         A mother of four children and the father of the youngest three children separately appeal orders terminating their parental rights.

          Kevin Hobbs, West Des Moines, for appellant mother.

          Shane P. O'Toole, Des Moines, for appellant father.

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

          Andrew J. Zimmerman of Nielsen & Zimmerman, PLC, Corning, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

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

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE.

         A mother of four children, born in 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013, and the father of the youngest three children, separately appeal orders terminating their parental rights. The mother contends the State failed to prove the grounds for termination cited by the district court. In that context, she argues the department of human services did not make reasonable efforts to reunite her with the children and the children were bonded to her. The father contends termination is not in the children's best interests. Under that rubric, he challenges the efforts made by the department to reunify him with the children and argues he worked to maintain a strong bond with them.

         I. Mother

         The district court terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (f), and (l) (2018). We may affirm if we find clear and convincing evidence to support any of the grounds for termination. In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010). On our de novo review, we focus on subsection (f), which requires proof of several elements, including proof the children could not be returned to the parent's custody.

         The department became involved with the family in 2016 following allegations of domestic violence and methamphetamine use within the household. The State filed a petition to have the children adjudicated in need of assistance. The district court granted the petition and allowed the children to remain with the mother, under the department's supervision.

         The mother tested positive for methamphetamine while the children were in her care. In 2017, all four children were removed from the mother's custody and were placed with the father of the oldest child, where they remained through the termination hearing seventeen months later.

         According to the department social worker assigned to the case, the mother did not consistently engage in reunification services. For example, from December 12, 2016 through June 12, 2018, the department "requested 35 random drug screens" and the mother only "completed 11." Of those eleven, nine "were positive for methamphetamine." Similarly, the mother was afforded four supervised visits with her children each month but only attended "one or two." The social worker characterized her bond with the ...


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