IN THE INTEREST OF Q.N., Minor Child, B.K., Mother, Appellant, J.N., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Marion County, Steven
Guiter, District Associate Judge.
separately appeal the termination of their parental rights.
J. Tingle, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
R. Steves, Des Moines, for appellant father.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until
withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General,
for appellee State.
William E. Sales III of Sales Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines,
attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Scott, S.J.
child came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) in early May 2018 when the child tested
positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines at birth. The
mother has a long history of substance abuse, criminal
activity, and founded child-abuse assessments as to her other
two children, who are not in her care. The mother
refused to cooperate with DHS. On May 4, the juvenile court
entered an order removing the child from the parents'
care and placing him in the legal custody of
The child was placed with his paternal grandmother a week
later but was placed with his paternal aunt and uncle in July
because the grandmother could no longer care for the
child. The child was adjudicated a child in need
mother completed substance-abuse treatment in June but tested
positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines in July. The
father tested negative for drugs in July, but his continuing
sobriety could not be verified because he largely evaded or
obstructed drug testing thereafter. The mother again tested
positive for the substances on two occasions in August and a
third occasion in September. The mother agreed to engage in
substance-abuse treatment. She again tested positive for
illegal substances upon her entry into treatment in October.
The mother provided clean drug tests while in treatment. She
was released from treatment at the end of November.
mother participated in aftercare and continued to provide
negative urinalysis screens. However, it was reported the
mother was cleansing her system prior to her aftercare
appointments. In February 2019, the mother tested positive
for methamphetamine; the father tested positive for
methamphetamine and amphetamines. The mother discontinued
attending her aftercare appointments thereafter. The father
declined to undergo a substance-abuse evaluation and refused
further drug testing. DHS requested the mother to return to
treatment; she responded "What's the point?"
The mother admitted in her testimony at the termination
hearing that she used methamphetamine again in March.
April, the State petitioned for termination of both
parents' parental rights. Following a termination hearing
in June, the juvenile court terminated the parental rights of
both parents under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) (2019).
Both parents appeal. They each challenge the sufficiency of
the evidence supporting the statutory ground for termination
cited by the juvenile court, argue termination is not in the
best interests of the child due to the closeness of the
parent-child bonds, maintain the court should have applied
the statutory exception to termination contained in Iowa Code
section 232.116(3)(a) and (c), and request a six-month
extension to work toward reunification.
review is de novo. In re L.T., 924 N.W.2d 521, 526
(Iowa 2019). Our primary consideration is the best interests
of the child, In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa
2006), the defining elements of which are the child's
safety and need for a permanent home. In re H.S.,
805 N.W.2d 737, 748 (Iowa 2011).
the statutory ground for termination cited by the juvenile
court, the parents only appear to challenge the State's
establishment of the final element- that the children could
not be returned to their care at the time of the termination
hearing. See Iowa Code § 232.116(1)(h)(4)
(requiring clear and convincing evidence that the child
cannot be returned to the custody of the child's parents
at the present time); In re D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703,
707 (Iowa 2010) (interpreting the statutory language "at
the present time" to mean "at the time of the
termination hearing"). The mother unequivocally
testified at the termination hearing the child could not be
returned to her care at that time. The evidence is clear and
convincing that both parents have unresolved substance-abuse
issues and neither is willing to commit to treatment to
alleviate the same. A de novo review of the record discloses
that returning the child to the parents' care at the
present would expose the child to a risk of adjudicatory
harm. See In re R.R.K., 544 N.W.2d 274, 277 (Iowa
Ct. App. 1995) (noting children cannot be ...