IN THE INTEREST OF K.K. and A.K., Minor Children, C.K., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lynn Poschner,
District Associate Judge.
father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his
Felicia M. Bertin Rocha of Bertin Rocha Law, PC, Urbandale,
for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Fuson of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, attorney and guardian
ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
juvenile court terminated a father's parental rights to
his two children, born in 2007 and 2009. The court cited Iowa
Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2019), which requires proof of
several elements, including proof the children could not be
returned to parental custody at the time of the termination
hearing. See In re A.S., 906 N.W.2d 467, 473 (Iowa
2018). On appeal, the father does not challenge the
sufficiency of the evidence supporting the ground for
termination. Instead, he contends termination was not in the
children's best interests and the juvenile court should
have invoked certain exceptions to termination.
novo review of the record reveals the following facts. The
department of human services received a report that the
parents were "actively using drugs in the presence of
their children." The State applied to have the children
temporarily removed from parental custody. The juvenile court
granted the application. Subsequent testing confirmed the
parents' use of illicit drugs. The children were
adjudicated in need of assistance and remained out of the
parents' home for the balance of the
child-in-need-of-assistance and termination proceedings.
Following a hearing, the juvenile court terminated both
parents' rights to the children. Only the father appeals.
Iowa Supreme Court has adopted a three-step analysis in
termination-of-parental-rights cases. See In re
P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 39 (Iowa 2010). As noted, the
father concedes the first step-establishing a ground for
termination-was satisfied. Specifically, he admitted the
children could not be returned to his custody at the time of
the termination hearing.
to the second step, whether termination is in the
children's best interests. Id. In evaluating
this step, "the court shall 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, and emotional condition and
needs of the child." Id. (quoting Iowa Code
termination hearing, the father acknowledged using
methamphetamine "[m]onths" ago and marijuana
"[a] month ago." He also acknowledged he could not
be a safe parent to his children without completing
substance-abuse treatment. Despite his appreciation of this
reality, he had yet to engage in treatment. In his words, he
"screwed it up." In light of the father's
conceded inability to parent his children in a safe manner,
we agree with the juvenile court that termination was in the
children's best interests.
final step requires consideration of statutory exceptions to
termination. Id. The father contends the juvenile
court should have invoked exceptions premised on the
children's ages and the parent-child bond. See
Iowa Code § 232.116(3)(b) ("The child is over ten
years of age and objects to the termination."), (c)
("There is clear and convincing evidence that the
termination would be detrimental to the child at the time due
to the closeness of the parent-child relationship.").
the older child was over ten years old at the time of the
termination hearing. Although he expressed a desire to
reunite with his parents, the juvenile court appropriately
concluded safety considerations overrode his preference.
See In re A.R., No. 18-2089, 2019 WL 3642825, at *3
(Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 20, 2019) (borrowing child-custody
framework for analyzing ...