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In re S.G.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 5, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF S.G., Minor Child, M.G., Father, Appellant, P.G., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their adopted daughter. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Raya D. Dimitrova of Carr Law Firm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant father.

          Sarah E. Dewein of Cunningham & Kelso, P.L.L.C., Urbandale, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          ConGarry D. Williams of Des Moines Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Cathleen J. Siebrecht of Siebrecht Law Firm, Des Moines, attorney for minor child.

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

          TABOR, JUDGE

         Patricia is S.G.'s biological great-grandmother. Patricia and her husband, Michael, adopted S.G. in 2015 after the juvenile court terminated the rights of S.G.'s biological parents. But S.G. was not safe with her adoptive parents. At age seven, she reported being sexually abused by Michael and M.R., a teenaged cousin living in the home in 2017. The juvenile court terminated the parental rights of Patricia and Michael in February 2019. Both Patricia and Michael appeal. Patricia challenges the statutory basis for termination, claims termination is not in S.G.'s best interests, and asserts termination will be detrimental to S.G. because of their close bond. Michael also contests the statutory ground for termination and, alternatively, seeks additional time to obtain a psychosexual evaluation and work on his mental-health issues.

         After independently reviewing the record, [1] we conclude the State proved by clear and convincing evidence the statutory basis for terminating the parental rights of both Patricia and Michael. Michael is not entitled to delay a permanent placement for S.G. And, despite her bond with Patricia, termination is necessary to ensure S.G.'s safety and to foster her long-term best interests. Based on these conclusions, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Heartbreakingly, this case marks the second time in five years S.G. has lost her legal relationship with a set of parents in juvenile court. In February 2015, the court terminated the rights of her biological parents, Justin and Dawnielle, based largely on their unresolved substance-abuse issues. That same year, S.G. (who was born in 2009) and her older brother, N.G. (who was born in 2006), were adopted by Justin's grandmother, Patricia, and her husband, Michael. Patricia also had legal guardianship of S.G.'s teenaged cousin, M.R., who lived in the home.

         The new home was not a safe place for S.G. In 2017, then seven-year-old S.G. reported being sexually abused twice in her bedroom by M.R. S.G. also told a child-protective worker from the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) her adoptive father, Michael, "touched her with his penis" when Patricia was sleeping. S.G. specifically recalled Michael ...


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