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In re P.K.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF P.K., Minor Child, J.K., Father, Appellant, J.T., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clayton County, Linnea M.N. Nicol, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their five-year-old daughter.

          Cory R. Gonzales of Law Office of Cory R. Gonzales PLLC, Strawberry Point, for appellant father.

          John J. Sullivan of Sullivan Law Office, P.C., Oelwein, for appellant mother.

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

          Mary Beth A. Fleming, Dubuque, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Jennifer and John separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to five-year-old P.K. They contend the State did not offer clear and convincing evidence of the statutory grounds for termination; termination is not in P.K.'s best interests; and termination would be detrimental to P.K. because of the parent-child bond. After an independent review of the record, [1] we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         John assaulted Jennifer in the presence of their children, P.K., and her younger sister, A.K. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) also received reports the parents were using methamphetamine while caring for the children. In a child-abuse assessment, the DHS determined both parents were responsible for a failure to properly supervise the children and for the presence of illegal drugs when A.K.'s hair sample tested positive for methamphetamine. During the assessment, Jennifer admitted using methamphetamine "once in a while" and within thirty days of the assault. Afterward, Jennifer denied both that she ever used drugs and that she ever admitted to using drugs. For his part, John has a long history of abusing drugs, especially methamphetamine. The DHS removed the children and placed them in the same foster home, where they have remained throughout these proceedings.

         The juvenile court adjudicated then three-year-old P.K. and five-month-old A.K. as children in need of assistance (CINA). The adjudication rested on the parents' failure to exercise a reasonable degree of supervision and because the parents' drug abuse resulted in the children not receiving adequate care. See Iowa Code § 232.2(6)(c)(2), (n) (2017). The case permanency plan required both parents to (1) obtain substance-abuse evaluations and follow treatment recommendations; (2) obtain mental-health evaluations and follow treatment recommendations; (3) submit to random drug testing; and (4) attend Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP) sessions focusing on parenting skills, budgeting, and relapse prevention.

         From the outset, Jennifer had trouble cooperating with the DHS and service providers. She was routinely combative, hostile, and verbally abusive to the FSRP worker assigned to her case. She lashed out both in person and over phone, email, and text, including while in the presence of the children. At times she was aggressive and threatening. For instance, during one visitation, the FSRP worker called law enforcement because Jennifer was yelling swear words and threatening to kill herself-in front of the children. Visitation remained fully supervised, and Jennifer missed or was late to many interactions, especially toward the end of the case.

         As part of the recommended services, Jennifer attended a joint mental-health and substance-abuse evaluation. The therapist diagnosed her with adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood and recommended individual mental-health counselling. But the therapist found Jennifer had no drug or alcohol-abuse problem, thus offering no recommendations for substance-abuse ...


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