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In re A.D.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.D., Minor Child, R.D., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Korie Shippee, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his child.

          Jack E. Dusthimer, Davenport, for appellant father.

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

          Matthew D. Hatch, Bettendorf, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and Greer, JJ.

          GREER, JUDGE.

         R.D. appeals the termination of his parental rights to his daughter A.D.[1] The juvenile court terminated the father's rights under Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(b), (e), (g), (h), and (1) (2019). To challenge that ruling, the father maintains termination is not in the child's best interests under any of the statutory grounds, and because of his incarceration and his attempted commitment to A.D., reunifications efforts must continue.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings.

         In the midst of termination proceedings related to her older siblings, A.D. was born in July 2018.[2] She tested positive for benzodiazepines at birth. The father was incarcerated at this time, [3] and he has remained incarcerated in some Iowa penal institution-jail or prison-throughout these proceedings.

         Recognizing their inability to provide care, these parents arranged for A.D.'s paternal aunt and uncle to temporarily act as caregivers upon the child's discharge from the hospital, and A.D. continued to reside with the aunt and uncle through the time of termination.

         On October 31, 2018, the court adjudicated A.D. a child in need of assistance (CINA). After the CINA adjudication, A.D. began weekly visitation with the father via video at the jail. After terminating the rights of the older children, the State moved to waive its obligation to make reasonable efforts to reunite A.D. with the parents. Even before the ruling on reasonable-efforts-to-reunite issue, in February 2019, the jail staff suspended the father's visitation privileges for fighting in jail. With a history of lack of effort by the parents, in March, the court waived the reasonable-efforts requirement, citing the parents' minimal participation in the services the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) had continually offered to them since January 2017 with regard to A.D. and her three older siblings.[4] Next, the State petitioned to terminate the rights of both parents. On July 11, the court held a termination hearing, in which the father participated via telephone from an Iowa correctional facility.[5] Although services ceased before the time of the hearing, he requested services upon his release from prison on parole, which he expected to occur in nineteen to twenty weeks. On July 16, the court issued its order terminating the parental rights of the mother and father.

         II. Scope of Review.

         Our review of termination cases is de novo. In re L.G., 532 N.W.2d 478, 480 (Iowa Ct. App. 1995). The first step is for the court to determine whether a ground for termination exists under Iowa Code section 232.116(1). In re P.L., 778 N.W.2d 33, 39 (Iowa 2010). "If a ground exists, the court may terminate a parent's parental rights." Id. In determining whether to terminate, "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 ยง 232.116(2)). The judge's decision should contain ...


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