IN THE INTEREST OF L.C. and K.C, Minor Children, E.C., Mother, Appellant, S.E., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Scott
Strait, District Associate Judge.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
parental rights to two children.
M. Rohling of Rohling Law, PLLC, Council Bluffs, for
appellant mother. Kyle J. McGinn of McGinn, Springer &
Noethe, Council Bluffs, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Nerenstone, Council Bluffs, guardian ad litem for minor
Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and May, JJ.
appeal affects two children: L.C., age one, and K.C., who is
almost three. In June 2019, the juvenile court terminated
their legal relationships with their parents, Emilee and
Shawn. The court was most concerned about Shawn's acts of
domestic violence against Emilee and Emilee's dishonesty
about maintaining their toxic relationship. Both parents
separately appeal. Emilee contends the State failed to prove
a statutory ground for termination. Shawn concedes the State
met its burden in his case but asks for "more time to
get his life in order." In its termination order, the
juvenile court found L.C. and K.C. could not be safely
reunited with either parent now or "in the foreseeable
future." After independently reviewing the record,
arrive at the same conclusion.
physical abuse of Emilee drew the attention of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) in June 2017. Police
arrested Shawn for assaulting Emilee in a motel room while
eight-month-old K.C. sat nearby on the bed. The violence
prompted the juvenile court to issue a temporary removal
order placing K.C. in the care of an aunt. That order
directed Shawn to complete the Iowa Domestic Abuse Program
(IDAP). Despite a criminal no-contact order, Shawn continued
to interact with Emilee. In November 2017, Shawn again
assaulted Emilee, knocking her unconscious.
after that assault, the court adjudicated K.C. as a child in
need of assistance (CINA). See Iowa Code §
232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), and (n) (2017). The adjudication order
noted Emilee was pregnant, though she "wavered"
when asked if Shawn was the father. Shawn went to jail for a
probation violation in February 2018. And Emilee continued to
lie to social workers about her ongoing relationship with
Shawn during early 2018, according to the juvenile court
was born in April 2018. A paternity test verified Shawn was
L.C.'s father. Because of the parents' ongoing
instability, the juvenile court adjudicated L.C. as a CINA
when he was just one month old. In that adjudication order,
the juvenile court set out clear expectations for the
parents: both parents were to obtain suitable housing,
complete a parenting class, and abide by the no-contact
order. The court directed Emilee to participate in Catholic
Charities programming as the DHS recommended. Finally, the
court ordered Shawn to complete mental-health and
substance-abuse evaluations and participate in IDAP. The DHS
placed L.C. and K.C. with the same foster parents in May
the following summer and fall, the parents made little
progress in meeting the court's expectations. Neither
parent maintained suitable housing. Emilee completed a
program for domestic-violence survivors called Journey Beyond
Abuse-but she did so while maintaining she had no ongoing
relationship with Shawn. Meanwhile, county records revealed
Emilee and Shawn had regular telephone contact while Shawn
was in jail. In October, a deputy stopped Emilee for driving
with a suspended license and discovered Shawn in the car.
Shawn lied about his name because of the no-contact order.
Shawn again went to jail when the deputy determined his
Shawn, Emilee ran into some criminal trouble. In early
December 2018, police arrested her for burglary, criminal
mischief, and assault after she tried to break out the window
of Shawn's car and threw soda on his new girlfriend.
Later that month, police charged her with animal neglect
after finding a deceased dog and other malnourished pets at
the farm where she was living.
December 2018, the State petitioned to terminate both Emilee
and Shawn's parental rights. In the wake of the petition,
Emilee told her Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP)
worker she was "not ready to fight for her
children." At a January 2019 hearing, Emilee consented
to termination of her parental rights. In February, the FSRP
set up a goodbye visit for Emilee and the children. But, when
the judge realized he had a ...