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In re E.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 6, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF E.S., Minor Child, M.S., Father, Appellant, N.S., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Sioux County, Daniel P. Vakulskas, District Associate Judge.

         A mother and a father separately appeal the termination of their parental rights.

          Kevin J. Huyser, Orange City, for appellant father.

          Timothy J. Kramer of Kramer Law, P.C., Sioux Center, for appellant mother.

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

          Jenny L. Winterfeld of Winterfeld Law, P.L.C., Sioux Center, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., Mullins, J., and Gamble, S.J. [*]

          GAMBLE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         A mother and father separately appeal from the termination of their parental rights in their child, E.J.S. On appeal, both parents challenge the statutory grounds authorizing termination, whether termination is in the child's best interests, and the juvenile court's refusal to grant additional time to work toward reunification. The father also challenges the juvenile court's refusal to apply permissive factors to preclude termination. We affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         This is the second termination appeal involving this family before this court in less than two years. We previously affirmed the termination of both parents' parental rights to another child, E.S. See In re E.S., No. 18-1114, 2018 WL 4923174, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 10, 2018). Both the present and prior action stem from the physical abuse of the mother's two oldest children, P. and B.[1] We recounted the following relevant facts and events in our previous opinion:

On September 7, 2016, child protective services received allegations of physical abuse of P., then ten years old, who had a black right eye, a scratch from his left eye to his nose, bruising by both ears, a swollen jaw, circular bruises on his arms, and bruises on his thigh and chest. P.'s explanation for the injuries was inconsistent with the nature of his injuries. A medical expert who reviewed photographs taken of the child determined the injuries were inflicted.
Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP) services were implemented with the family in September 2016-when the investigation began. The unsanitary condition of the home when the children were still living with the parents was a concern to service providers.
On December 9, 2016, E.S., P., and B. were [each] adjudicated [as a child in need of assistance] [(]CINA[)]. The underlying reasons included nine child-abuse assessments completed concerning these children spanning eight years, including a founded child-abuse report where P. was the victim of physical abuse with the perpetrator unidentified at the time. At the CINA adjudicatory hearing, both parents asserted P.'s injuries were self-inflicted. The mother wanted the department of human services (DHS) involved to try to determine why the child was acting out. B. also told authorities that P.'s injuries were self-inflicted.
P. and B. later reported the father physically abused both of them. On February 3, 2017, all three children were removed from the custody of the mother and father.
On February 17, 2017, criminal charges were filed against the mother and the father. Combined, they were charged with twenty-two counts of felony neglect of a dependent person and ...

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