IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA
Filed March 3, 2021
IN THE INTEREST OF A.D. and S.D.,
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Deborah Farmer
Minot, District Associate Judge.
A mother and father separately appeal the juvenile court order terminating
their parental rights to their minor children. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.
Jeannette Keller of Bowman, DePree & Murphy, West Liberty, for appellant
Sue Kirk of Arnott & Kirk, PLLC, Coralville, for appellant mother.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ellen Ramsey-Kacena, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Anthony A. Haughton of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar Rapids, attorney
and guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Ahlers, JJ.
The mother and father separately appeal the district court order terminating
their parental rights to their minor children, A.D. and S.D. The juvenile court
terminated both parents’ rights under Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) (2020). On
appeal, the mother and father each argue (1) the juvenile court erred by not
granting additional time to work towards reunification and (2) the juvenile court
erred by not declining to terminate the parents’ rights under section 232.116(3)(c)
due to the closeness of the parents’ relationship with the children.1
“We review termination of parental rights proceedings de novo.” In re J.H.,
952 N.W.2d 157
, 166 (Iowa 2020). “We are not bound by the juvenile court's
findings of fact, but we do give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility
of witnesses.” In re Z.P.,
948 N.W.2d 518
, 522–23 (Iowa 2020) (per curiam)
(quoting In re A.M.,
843 N.W.2d 100
, 110 (Iowa 2014)).
The parents do not dispute either that the statutory grounds for termination
have been shown2 or that termination is in the children’s best interest. Instead,
1 The mother raises a third issue on appeal, namely, that the safety precautions
implemented in response to the COVID-19 health emergency prevented her from
having regular meaningful contact the children. She does not, however, point to
any specific places in the record to demonstrate how the restrictions imposed
prevented her from having contact with the children, nor does she explain how the
legal authorities she cites relate to her argument. As such, we consider this
argument waived. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.903(2)(g)(3) (“Failure to cite authority in
support of an issue may be deemed waiver of that issue.”).
2 The mother makes a reference to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(f) in her
statement of the issues, suggesting she may be challenging the statutory grounds
for termination. However, her citation to the statutory ground is blended with her
challenge to the failure to grant additional time. To the extent the mother’s passing
reference to section 232.116(1)(f) was a challenge to the statutory grounds for
termination, we find the challenge waived due to failure to cite authority or develop
an argument in support of the challenge. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.903(2)(g)(3); State
both argue that, despite these findings, the juvenile court erred by declining to
provide them six additional months to work towards reunification. See Iowa Code
§§ 232.117(5) (permitting the juvenile court to enter a permanency order pursuant
to section 232.104 if the court does not terminate parental rights); 232.104(2)(b)
(allowing the juvenile court to grant the parents an additional six months to work
towards reunification if it finds “the need for removal of the child from the child’s
home will no longer exist at the end of the additional six-month period”).
We agree with the juvenile court and conclude an additional six months
would not resolve the parents’ mental-health and substance-abuse problems that
led to the removal. See In re A.B.,
815 N.W.2d 764
, 776 (Iowa 2012) (“We have
long recognized that an unresolved, severe, and chronic drug addiction can render
a parent unfit to raise children.”); In re D.H., No. 18-1552,
2019 WL 156668
, at *2
(Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2019) (collecting cases citing a parent’s failure to address
their mental-health issues as a reason to affirm termination). A.D. and S.D. were
originally removed from the parents’ care in August 2019 following reports the
mother was using methamphetamine in their presence. Both parents admitted to
using methamphetamine in the home. Despite acknowledging their drug use,
neither has been able to adequately address it. Since drug testing was requested
in August 2019, each parent has only returned one drug patch and each of those
patches tested positive for methamphetamine. The father completed intensive
outpatient treatment, but he admitted to relapsing during treatment. The father
admitted he had used methamphetamine about six to eight weeks before the
867 N.W.2d 136
, 166 n.14 (Iowa 2015) (noting a “passing reference” in a
brief is insufficient).
termination hearing and had only been sober about six months out of the past
fifteen. The mother had not completed intensive outpatient treatment, and she did
not have any concrete plans to address substance-abuse issues in a meaningful
The parents’ mental-health issues are similarly unresolved. Neither parent
has addressed the parent’s mental-health issues apart from taking medication.
Even the taking of medication has been haphazard, as the record indicates the
parents have not consistently taken their medications as prescribed. Both parents
report that they have sought treatment and attended counseling, but nothing in the
record corroborates their claims and their past history of repeated lying about their
actions caused the juvenile court not to believe any claims that could not be
Our review of the record causes us to agree with these observations and
findings by the juvenile court regarding the parents’ request for a six-month
extension of their reunification window:
Finally, the Court finds that [it] is not in the best interests of [the
children] to grant the parents more time in light of [the parents’] failure
to take advantage of services, their poor history of response to
services, and their long history of serious problems with substance
abuse and dishonesty. It is significant to the Court that [the parents]
failed and refused to take advantage of the services they were
offered in 2016 after [the younger child] was born testing positive for
marijuana. . . .
The Court cannot find any convincing evidence to indicate that
either parent will make any significant or sustained progress, such
that the children could be returned within the foreseeable future.
Since the removal, [the parents] have had fifteen months to work
toward the goal of reunification. They admit that they will not be
ready to have the children returned to them for at least two more
months. In the judgment of the Court, this is wildly unrealistic. There
is simply no way the Court would consider returning the children until
the parent(s) had shown the ability to complete treatment, develop a
plan for sobriety, and stick to it for at least several months.
In simple terms, the parents have not made adequate efforts to address the issues
that keep the children from returning to their care. Based on their performance in
the fifteen months since the children were originally removed, there is no indication
that the reasons for removal will no longer exist after an additional six months. As
such, an extension is not warranted.
Finally, both parents urge us to decline to terminate their parental rights
under Iowa Code section 232.116(3)(c), which permits us to avoid termination in
situations where “[t]here is clear and convincing evidence that the termination
would be detrimental to the child at the time due to the closeness of the parent-
child relationship.” We apply the section 232.116(3) factors at our discretion. In
876 N.W.2d 212
, 225 (Iowa 2016). The parents “bear the burden to
prove the permissive—not mandatory—factor applies to prevent termination.” In
950 N.W.2d 27
, 42 (Iowa 2020). The juvenile court addressed section
232.116(3)(c) in its termination order, noting that, while the children enjoy their
visits with their parents, the children “now look to others” to fulfill their needs and
“[a]ny harm to the children from the loss of their parents” would be reduced by
placing them in a stable home. Based on our de novo review, we agree. We thus
decline to apply section 232.116(3)(c) to avoid terminating the parents’ parental
AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.