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In re A.Y.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 19, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.Y., A.Y., K.Y., and O.Y., Minor Children, J.K.Y., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J. Tabor, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his children.

          J. David Zimmerman, Clinton, for appellant father.

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

          Barbara E. Maness, Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*] Tabor, J., takes no part.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         J.K.Y. is the father of four children, the oldest born in 2004 and the youngest 2017. He has an extensive history of criminal activity as well as substance-abuse and mental-health concerns, and the Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) has been involved with the family on several occasions. In July 2018, the children again came to the attention of the IDHS after it was reported there were concerns regarding the children's safety while in their mother's care. Placement with the father was not an option because he was in treatment at a residential care facility as a result of violating the terms of probation he received following a felony conviction.

         Just prior to the removal hearing, the father left the care facility without permission, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was on the run for a short time before he was arrested and placed in jail. His probation was subsequently revoked and, in September 2018, his sentence to five years of incarceration was imposed.

         Because of his incarceration, the father's involvement in the case thereafter was minimal. The father did not participate in any classes or programs because the minimum security prison did not offer them. The father did send some letters and speak with the older children on the phone, though the record suggests the father had to be encouraged at times to do so. Two certified letters were mailed to him before he responded to the IDHS worker's request for information.

         Since the beginning of the case, the mother made no effort to engage in offered services. She only made a limited effort to engage in interactions with her children, and she eventually made no effort to interact with the children. In December 2018, the State filed petitions seeking termination of the parents' parental rights. At the termination-of-parental-rights hearing, the father's attorney advised the court:

I have sent a number of letters to my client, most recently regarding the termination. I asked that he provide me with any classes, certificates, programs, information that would be relevant to the court regarding the termination issue. I've had no response to any of those correspondence, and they have not been returned from the correctional facility. It's my understanding that [the father] continues to be incarcerated.

         Following the hearing, the juvenile court entered its order terminating the parents' parental rights. The court found the State proved the grounds for the father's parental-right termination set forth in paragraphs (d) and (i) of Iowa Code section 232.116(1) (2018). The court also found the State proved the ground in paragraph (h) as to the two youngest children. The father now appeals.[1]

         Under Iowa Code chapter 232, once the State establishes a ground for termination, parental rights may be terminated if "the best-interest framework as laid out in section 232.116(2) supports the termination of parental rights" and if none of the section 232.116(3) permissive factors weigh against termination of parental rights.[2]In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 472-73 (Iowa 2018). In determining whether termination of parental rights is in a child's best interests, we give "primary consideration to the child's safety, to the best placement for furthering the long- term nurturing and growth of the child, and to the physical, mental, ...


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