In re B.D., 22-0361

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSCHUMACHER, JUDGE
PartiesIN THE INTEREST OF B.D. and C.D., Minor Children, C.D., Father, Appellant.
Decision Date27 April 2022
Docket Number22-0361

IN THE INTEREST OF B.D. and C.D., Minor Children, C.D., Father, Appellant.

No. 22-0361

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 27, 2022


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Carrie K. Bryner, District Associate Judge.

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to two children.

Alexander S. Momany of Howes Law Firm, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant father.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ellen Ramsey-Kacena, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

Considered by May, P.J., and Schumacher and Badding, JJ.

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SCHUMACHER, JUDGE

A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to two children, claiming the juvenile court should have granted concurrent jurisdiction to afford the father the opportunity to pursue a bridge order. The father also claims the juvenile court should have applied a permissive exception to preclude termination. As the children were not safely placed with a parent, a bridge order was not appropriate in lieu of termination. And we, like the juvenile court, decline to apply either of the permissive exceptions urged by the father to preclude termination. Accordingly, we affirm.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings

B.D., age eleven, C.D., age five, came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) based on an incident that occurred on January 15, 2019.[1] Police were called due to concerns over domestic violence between the parents, as well as drug use by the father. B.D. ran to a friend's house for help because her parents were fighting. The father struck the family's dog with a rod and damaged a car while leaving the house. A few days later, law enforcement was required to subdue the father, and he was placed on a forty-eight hour psychological hold. He tested positive for methamphetamine.

By stipulation of the parties, B.D. and C.D. were adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA) on March 8, 2019, pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and (6)(n) (2019). Shortly after the adjudication, C.D.'s drug test came back positive for methamphetamine. Around the same time, B.D. told

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DHS that her father was spending the night at the home with the mother and the children contrary to DHS directives. Based on the results of C.D.'s drug test, the father's continued access to the children, and ongoing concerns over the father's erratic behavior and methamphetamine use, the children were removed from parental custody on March 19. The children's custody was placed with DHS. They resided with their maternal grandmother.

The mother was granted a trial home placement while living with the maternal grandmother. The mother regained custody of both children on December 11. The father was not allowed on the mother's premises when the children were present and could only see the children during supervised visits.

However, DHS discovered in early June 2020 that the father had been residing at the mother's home despite court orders preventing his unsupervised contact with the children. As a result, an order was issued that barred the father from being on the mother's property. The State requested an emergency removal order for both children. The children were removed for a second time on June 15, with custody placed with DHS for the purpose of foster care or relative placement. The children were again placed with their maternal grandmother, although the mother was not allowed to live with the maternal grandmother and the children. Nearly a year later, on June 4, 2021, the children began a second trial home placement with their mother. The children remained in this trial home placement at the time of the termination hearing.

Throughout the underlying CINA proceedings, the father refused to engage in services to treat his substance-abuse and mental-health problems. He completed less than one percent of the offered drug tests. The father was

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unsuccessfully discharged from a substance-abuse program. Caseworkers observed behavioral indicators of the father's drug use during visits with his children, including dilated eyes and the wearing of sunglasses inside. The father testified at the termination hearing that he uses methamphetamine to help with his self-diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He does not believe his drug use impacts his ability to parent and denies ever using methamphetamine while caring for the children. He conceded that he last used methamphetamine about a month before the termination hearing and that he used marijuana a few weeks prior to the termination hearing.

The father also failed to meaningfully address his mental-health issues. During an evaluation in June 2019, he was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, antisocial traits, and an unspecified personality disorder. He failed to pick up his prescribed medication to address these concerns following this evaluation.

The father participated in seventy-two percent of the available visits with his children. However, he was described as aloof during most visits. When he did interact with the children, he did not do so in a positive manner. Instead, he would focus on negative aspects of his children's behavior. During supervised visits he both threatened to strangle one of the children and referred to one of his children as "a little fucker." The father never progressed beyond fully supervised visits.

At the termination hearing, the father argued that he had been working on his anger. Such anger is frequently, although not exclusively, exhibited while he is under the influence of methamphetamine. Caseworkers assigned to the case expressed apprehension about discussing matters that could upset the father

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because they believed he was dangerous. One caseworker expressed fear that her testimony at the termination hearing would anger the father. Due in part to the potential threat to caseworkers, visits between the father and the children were conducted in a public location. And caseworkers were not singled out for the father's aggression, as the father expressed an intent to contact a motorcycle gang to make the assistant county attorney assigned to the case "disappear."

As to the children's mother, the father continued the repeated violations of the no-contact order, including sending threats of suicide. On one occasion, he sent the mother pictures of the father drinking what appeared to be anti-freeze. On another occasion, he sent a picture of his wrist evidencing a cut. The children discovered a handgun in their father's motorcycle bag during a visit. The father told caseworkers that they were not in danger but the mother might be. On another occasion, the father gave C.D. a...

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