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In re N.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 25, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF N.H., Minor Child, J.M., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Cynthia S. Finley, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his one-year-old child.

          Michael M. Lindeman of Lindeman Law, Cedar Rapids, for appellant father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Kimberly Opatz of Linn County Advocate, Cedar Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          Tabor, Presiding Judge.

         Jesse is the father of one-year-old N.H. He contends the juvenile court erred in terminating his parental rights to his daughter. After reviewing the record, [1]we conclude N.H.'s significant and complex medical needs outstrip Jesse's abilities as a parent. We thus affirm termination of his parental rights.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         N.H. was born in January 2018 at just twenty-four gestational weeks. Her mother, Jacqueline, admitted having no prenatal care and drinking alcohol throughout her pregnancy.[2]

         N.H. has severe health issues and spent her first eight months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. N.H. has impaired vision and hearing and a cleft palate and requires a brain shunt and feeding tube. She sees thirteen different specialist medical providers and participates in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. She needs home nursing care and monthly shots to prevent contracting respiratory infections. She is severely immune-compromised and can become seriously ill from a simple infection. She is also developmentally delayed. Her health problems and cognitive delays will continue throughout her lifetime.

         The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) removed N.H. from Jacqueline's care a few days after her birth because Jacqueline was behaving erratically at the hospital.

         During her pregnancy, Jacqueline told Jesse he was the father. When the DHS removed N.H. from Jacqueline's care, she told the workers that Jesse was the baby's father. The DHS moved to establish paternity. But Jesse declined to see N.H. until the testing came back.

         In August 2018, after paternity testing established Jesse was N.H.'s father, the DHS began providing him services. Jesse received parenting instruction from ...


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