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In re A.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 25, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.S., K.B., and A.B., Minor Children, B.B., Father of K.B. and A.B., Appellant, A.M., Mother, Appellant.

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

         Parents separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their respective children.

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

          Robin L. O'Brien Licht, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          SCOTT, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Parents separately appeal the termination of their parental rights to their respective children. Both parents challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the statutory ground for termination cited by the juvenile court and argue termination is not in their children's best interests due to the closeness of the parent-child bonds.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The children in interest were respectively born in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The mother is the biological parent of all three children, while the father is the biological parent of the two younger children.[1] Both parents have a history of criminal activity and involvement with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).[2] The family again came to the attention of DHS in July 2017 upon concerns for the condition of the home, the parents' use of methamphetamine, and the presence of drug paraphernalia in the home. Both parents admitted having a history of methamphetamine use but denied current use. The parents initially declined drug testing, but the oldest child tested positive for methamphetamine.[3]The mother subsequently agreed to drug testing; she likewise tested positive for the substance. The children were removed from the parents' care in August. A few days later, the court formally confirmed removal and adjudicated the children to be in need of assistance upon the stipulation of the parties. The parties stipulated to continued removal at the time of disposition in September. Both parents tested positive for methamphetamine in September, October, and November. The father tested positive for marijuana in October and December.

         A social history report was completed, which disclosed the parents were not meeting the children's medical, dietary, developmental, or disciplinary needs. The parents participated in services and made progress. By February 2018, they progressed from fully to semi-supervised visits in the community. In March, the parents gave birth to another child.[4] By April, the parents progressed to semi-supervised visits in the home. In May, unsupervised visitation was authorized and initiated. Unsupervised overnight visitations began in July, but they were shortlived due to concerns for the condition of the home and the parents' ability to supervise the children. Overnight visits were reinitiated in August but, again, those visits only lasted a matter of weeks as a result of similar concerns. In October, the State moved for a trial home placement. Upon the guardian ad litem's resistance, the State modified its request to extended overnight visitation. The same was authorized by the court but not initiated due to the parents missing a number of drug tests. In November, the State withdrew its request for a trial home placement and the court granted the parents an additional three months to work toward reunification. In its permanency-review order, the court granted DHS discretion to begin extended overnight visits, which began on November 21. These visits were also short-lived, however, as a result of concerns regarding lack of supervision and unexplained injuries to one of the children. Visits reverted to semi-supervised. Shortly thereafter, the same child was again injured during a semi-supervised visit; visitations returned to fully supervised until April 2019, when visitation returned to semi-supervised.

         In February, the State initiated termination proceedings. Shortly thereafter, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine.[5] Concerns for the parents' ability to supervise and care for the children and the condition of the family home continued through the time of the termination hearing in May. Visits continued to be semi-supervised. Following a two-day termination hearing, the juvenile court terminated both parents' parental rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2019). As noted, both parents appeal.

         II. ...


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