IN THE INTEREST OF D.M., T.G., T.G., L.G., and T.G., Minor Children, L.C., Mother, Appellant, T.G., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Susan Cox,
District Associate Judge.
mother and father appeal the termination of their parental
rights to five minor children.
Christopher R. Kemp of Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, (until
withdrawal) and Deborah L. Johnson of Deborah L. Johnson Law
Office PC, Altoona, for appellant mother.
G. Warutere of Warutere Law Firm, PLLC, Ankeny, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until
withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General,
for appellee State.
Mayfield of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad litem
for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Greer,
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
parental rights to five minor children. On our review, we
Background Facts and Proceedings.
father, T.G., and the mother, L.C., are the parents of five
minor children born in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, and
2017. Since 2015, when one of the children was
born with THC in his system, the family has been involved
with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Upon
meeting the family, DHS noted additional concerns, including
the parents' failure to enroll the oldest child in
school, the family's unstable housing, warrants for the
mother's arrest, and the father's drug and
domestic-violence criminal history. Exposure to excessive
violence in the familial home triggered significant reactive
and aggressive behavior in the oldest four siblings. As a
result, they required ongoing therapy throughout the
proceedings leading to termination.
of these ongoing issues, on February 4, 2016, the juvenile
court removed the four oldest children from the home and
placed them with the paternal grandmother. Following the
removal, on March 8, all four children were adjudicated
children in need of assistance (CINA). In October, the
grandmother dropped the children off with the mother because
she could no longer care for them. Despite the earlier
removal, the juvenile court allowed the children to stay with
the mother under DHS supervision.
allegations of domestic abuse between the mother and father
and the mother and her new paramour required a second removal
in June of 2017. Despite claims of separate living
arrangements, the parents conceived a fifth child, born in
December 2017. This child was removed from the parents at
birth. The court adjudicated her a CINA on January 12, 2018.
The court issued its permanency ruling in December 2018
recommending the State proceed with termination of parental
rights of all the children.
time of the termination hearing and for the twenty previous
months, custody of the four older children remained out of
their parents' care. The youngest child was in foster
care for the fourteen months since her birth.
the children's best interests, on May 19, 2019, the
juvenile court found that the State had established grounds
for termination and no exceptions applied to prevent
termination. The court terminated the mother's and the
father's parental rights to all five children. The
parents appeal. We will discuss other facts below, as
Standard of Review.
review of termination of parental rights proceedings is de
novo. In re L.T., 924 N.W.2d 521, 526 (Iowa 2019).
We give weight to the juvenile court's factual findings,
but they do not bind us. In re M.D., 921 N.W.2d 229,
232 (Iowa 2018). The paramount concern is the children's
best interests. Id.
begin, we use a three-step analysis to review
termination-of-parental-rights cases under Iowa Code chapter
232 (2019). See In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33,
39–40 (Iowa 2010). If the State establishes a ground
for termination under Iowa Code section 232.116(1), we then
consider whether termination is in the children's best
interests. Id. If the best-interests framework
supports termination, we must consider whether any statutory
exceptions exist to preclude termination of parental rights.
See Iowa Code § 232.116(3); P.L., 778
N.W.2d at 39–40.
mother and father's parental rights were terminated under
Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) as to the three oldest children,
and under section 232.116(1)(h) as to the two youngest children.
These parents separately ...