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In re J.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF J.C., M.C., and J.C., Minor Children, J.E., Mother, Appellant, C.E., Father of J.C. and M.C., Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Scott Strait, District Associate Judge.

         Parents separately appeal from the termination of their respective parental rights to their children.

          J. Joseph Narmi, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Maura C. Goaley, Council Bluffs, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Marti D. Nerenstone, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and May, JJ.

          MAY, JUDGE.

         The juvenile court terminated a mother and father's parental rights to their children, M.C. and Je.C. The juvenile court also terminated the mother's parental rights to another child, Jo.C.[1] On appeal, the mother contends the juvenile court erred in (1) denying her motion to reopen the record; (2) finding that statutory grounds for termination exist; (3) finding that termination is in the children's best interests; and (4) finding that no exception to termination applies. The father of M.C. and Je.C. (the father) contends the juvenile court erred in (1) finding that statutory grounds for termination exist and (2) finding that termination is in the children's best interests. We affirm the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Jo.C. was born in 2004. Twins M.C. and Je.C. were born in 2009. This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2009 because of allegations that the mother had denied critical care to the children.[2] DHS determined the allegations were founded.

         In 2013, DHS reported two more founded allegations of child abuse against the mother. The family voluntarily engaged in DHS services. In March 2013, law enforcement took the children into protective custody. In May, the juvenile court adjudicated each of the children as a child in need of assistance (CINA). The mother struggled to control her emotions and react appropriately to stressors. Even so, by March 2014, M.C. and Je.C. were returned to their parents' care subject to DHS supervision. Jo.C. was to be returned to the mother's care by the end of April. In July, the juvenile court dismissed the CINA proceedings as to all children.

         But then, in July 2016, the juvenile court again removed the children from the home following a domestic-violence incident perpetrated by the mother. The father reported that the mother struck him with a piece of wood "with nails in it," struck him a "heavy glass prism," and stabbed him with a broken snow globe. The father required three to four medical staples in his head and seven in his side.

         In August, the juvenile court adjudicated each of the children as CINA. The court found "there are concerns of domestic violence, mental health, and substance abuse" regarding the mother and father.

         The mother was placed on probation for assaulting the father. Her probation was revoked after she tested positive for methamphetamine. She was in jail from January to June 2017.

         In June, the juvenile court closed the CINA proceedings. The court placed M.C. and Je.C. in the father's care. In a separate proceeding, the district court appointed a guardian for Jo.C.

         The mother returned to jail in August. The father attempted suicide the same month.

         By September, DHS became involved with the family again. The mother remained in jail. The father exhibited signs of methamphetamine use. He was homeless while caring for the children. The juvenile court removed M.C. and Je.C. from their father's care. In October, Jo.C.'s guardian admitted to methamphetamine use and being homeless. In November, the court adjudicated all three children as CINA.

         On February 15 and 26, 2019, the juvenile court held a termination hearing. On May 5, the mother moved to reopen the record. She sought leave to submit documentation showing she completed the Iowa Domestic Abuse Program (IDAP) after the termination hearing. On May 6, the court denied the motion and terminated the mother's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (f) (2018). The court also terminated the father's parental rights pursuant to code section 232.116(1)(e) and (f).

         Both parents appealed. Our supreme court transferred the case to this court.

         II. ...


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