IN THE INTEREST OF J.R. and D.R., Minor Children, J.R., Mother, Appellant, R.R., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Brendan
Greiner, District Associate Judge.
mother and father appeal the termination of their parental
M. Elcock of Elcock Law Firm, PLC, Indianola, for appellant
D. Lubinus of Lubinus & Merrill, P.L.C., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler (until
withdrawal) and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorneys General,
for appellee State.
Kathryn Miller of Juvenile Public Defender Office, Des
Moines, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.
mother and father separately appeal the termination of their
parental rights. Upon our de novo review, we affirm on both
Background Facts and Proceedings.
the mother and R.R. is the father of J.R., born in 2004, and
D.R., born in 2005. In June 2017, the children were removed
from the parents' care after the family home was found to
be inhabitable; it was also alleged the parents were using
methamphetamine. The children were placed in the custody of
their adult half-brother under the supervision of the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS). The children were
adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA), and
services for reunification of the family were offered to each
parent. The parents were directed that each parent would
"need to address substance use as evidenced by
[engagement] with [appropriate] mental health and substance
abuse treatment" before the DHS could recommend the
children be returned to the parents' care. The parents
were advised each would need to learn and show "age
appropriate parenting with problem solving and communication
methods needed to keep the children safe and meet their
needs," which they would show by "modeling these
skills in front of the children."
permanency review hearing took place on July 6, 2018, under
Iowa Code section 232.104 (2018). Before a permanency order
was entered, the children's attorney and guardian ad
litem on September 14, 2018, filed a motion requesting that
visitation between the parents and children be suspended. The
motion stated the parents' behavior had "become so
erratic, hostile, and out of control" the children did
not want to have contact with the parents until they could
show their visits would be positive. One of the children
reported the mother came to the child's place of
employment and made a scene noted by the child's
employer. The parents had also been asked not to come to the
guardian's home but continued to do so. The parents
reported to the DHS the guardian and his spouse had tried to
run the parents off the road, but the children, their
guardian, and his spouse all denied this happened.
September 20, 2018, a hearing on the children's motion to
suspend visitation was held. The children testified at the
hearing. Among other testimony, one child testified it was
his preference that the parents not come to his football
games; it made him "a little bit anxious to wonder what
they might do when [he's] there at the game." Though
there had been no issues with his parents at his games
before, the child did not think having them there
"seem[ed] very safe" and found their behavior to be
days later, the juvenile court entered its permanency order.
The court found the parents had been unable "to
successfully complete substance-abuse treatment, therapy and
visitation" as directed. Even so, the juvenile court
found termination of the parents' parental rights was not
in the children's best interest at that time "due to
the age of the children, bond established and potential loss
of public benefits and inheritance." The court opted to
establish a guardianship of the children with their elder
sibling and his wife as guardians, finding it was the least
restrictive disposition and in the children's best
interests. The court did not address the children's prior
motion or set out any provisions for visitation in the
permanency order. But the same day, the court denied the
children's motion, stating the court's
"permanency order has addressed the visitation
matter." The court also entered a no-contact order
directing the parents not to contact the children's
father appealed the permanency order, and a panel of this
court affirmed the decision, concluding the juvenile court
"appropriately transferred guardianship and custody of
the children to the relative." In re J.R., No.
18-1922, 2019 WL 719054, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2019).
This court noted that the juvenile court could have
terminated the father's parental rights, given the facts
of the case. See id. But the court agreed with the
juvenile court's decision "not to invoke this remedy
in the hopes that the parent-child relationship, however
fraught, might repair itself over time," because it was
"in the children's best interests."
Id. Procedendo issued in March 2019.
before the father's filing of the appeal, the parents
moved to establish visitation post-permanency. Then, while
the appeal was pending, the mother sent the juvenile court a
letter demanding that the court issue an order putting the
children's "safety as a priority," as well as
demanding she be allowed to exercise her parental rights. The
court set a hearing on the issues raised by the mother. The
day of the hearing, the juvenile court entered a no-contact
order between the children and persons the mother alleged to
have harmed the children.
January 2019, the mother moved to dismiss the no-contact
order entered between the parents and the children's
guardian. She argued there was no basis for the order and it
violated her constitutional rights. In February 2019, the
juvenile court addressed the parents' visitation motion
and amended its prior orders to include conditional
visitation provisions. The court clarified the parents could
have one weekly visit with the children if they met two
conditions: Each parent had to provide "three clean
random UA's over an eighteen-day period or a clean hair
analysis or patch," as well as a recent report from his
or her therapist on the parent's current mental-health
April 2019, the juvenile court denied the mother's
request to dismiss the no-contact order between the parents
and the children's guardian, finding the no-contact order
was necessary and remained in the children's best
interests. The court pointed out there was no evidence either
parent had tried to satisfy the conditions the ...