IN THE INTEREST OF B.M., K.M., and R.M., Minor Children, B.M., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Seymour, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
McCormack of Van Cleaf & McCormack Law Firm, LLP, Des
Moines, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Pattison of Drake Legal Clinic, Des Moines, guardian ad litem
for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
three children at issue came to the attention of the juvenile
court because of concerns about domestic violence and
substance abuse in the home. The juvenile court removed the
children from the home in January 2018 and adjudicated them
to be children in need of assistance the next month. Because
the parents did not make reasonable effort to resume custody
of the children in the year that followed, the State
petitioned to terminate both the mother's and the
father's parental rights. In May 2019, the juvenile court
entered its order terminating both parents' rights under
Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e), (f), and (h) (2019).
father appeals the termination of his parental
rights. Chapter 232 provides a three-step analysis
for terminating parental rights. In re D.W., 791
N.W.2d 703, 706 (Iowa 2010).
First, the court must determine if a ground for termination
under section 232.116(1) has been established. If a ground
for termination is established, the court must, secondly,
apply the best-interest framework set out in section
232.116(2) to decide if the grounds for termination should
result in a termination of parental rights. Third, if the
statutory best-interest framework supports termination of
parental rights, the court must consider if any statutory
exceptions set out in section 232.116(3) should serve to
preclude termination of parental rights.
Id. at 706-07 (internal citations omitted). We need
not review any step of the three-step analysis the juvenile
court must make in terminating a parent's parental rights
if the step was not challenged by the parent on appeal.
See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 40 (Iowa 2010).
father does not dispute that the State proved the grounds for
terminating his parental rights. Instead, he challenges the
second step of the termination analysis, arguing termination
is not in the children's best interests. He claims that
terminating his parental rights goes against the
children's best interests because of the
"substantial bond" he has with the
review the decision to terminate parental rights de novo.
See A.S., 906 N.W.2d at 472. Although the factual
findings of the juvenile court are not binding, we do give
them weight, especially in assessing witness credibility.
See id. In making the "best interests"
determination, our primary considerations are "the
child's safety," "the best placement for
furthering the long-term nurturing and growth of the
child," and "the physical, mental, and emotional
condition and needs of the child." In re P.L.,
778 N.W.2d 33, 37 (Iowa 2010) (quoting Iowa Code §
232.116(2)). The "defining elements in a child's
best interest" are the child's safety and "need
for a permanent home." In re H.S., 805 N.W.2d
737, 748 (Iowa 2011) (citation omitted).
addressing the children's best interests, the juvenile
court noted the parents' failure to engage meaningfully
with the "extensive" services offered by the State
and that they "made no progress towards becoming safe
and sober parents who can meet these children's
needs." It further found no evidence to support a
finding that terminating parental rights would be detrimental
because of the closeness of the parent-child relationship.
Rather, the ...