No. 2-531 / 01-1981.
Filed July 3, 2002.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, CONSTANCE COHEN, Associate Juvenile Judge.
The parents appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights to their children. AFFIRMED.
Karen A. Taylor of Taylor Law Offices, Des Moines, for appellant mother.
Scott L. Bandstra, Des Moines, for appellant father of D.B.
Tammy Westhoff, Des Moines, for father of D.O.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kathrine Miller-Todd, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Cory McClure, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee-State.
Rachel Seymour, Des Moines, guardian ad litem for minor children.
Considered by MAHAN, P.J., and ZIMMER and EISENHAUER, JJ.
The parents appeal a juvenile court order terminating their parental rights to their children. On appeal the parents contend (1) the juvenile court erred in determining there was clear and convincing evidence to terminate their parental rights and (2) the termination was not in the best interests of the children. We affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings. Corina is the biological mother of Deo, born January 2, 1997, and Davossi, born March 11, 1999. Andrew is the biological father of Deo. David is the biological father of Davossi. The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in November 1999 when Deo was hospitalized with very serious nonaccidental injuries. Deo had paralysis of his leg; bruises on his chest, chin, and back; scratches on his buttocks; and swelling of the spine. He also had retinal hemorrhages believed to have resulted from oxygen deprivation. In addition, he had subdural lumbar clotting and stringy clots elsewhere along the spinal column, which required surgery.
Andrew also had his parental rights terminated but is not part of this appeal.
Corina's initial explanation for the cause of the injury was inconsistent with the medical evidence. She stated that Deo was involved in an automobile accident in which she was driving. She then changed her story and admitted to the medical personnel that she had lied about who was driving the car. Corina stated David was driving the car. She alleged that he was lighting a marijuana cigarette when he lost control. The medical personnel determined that Deo's injuries were not caused by an automobile accident.
The record is clear that there was no visible damage to the car or any pole or guardrail at the alleged accident scene.
Deo has also suffered previous injuries while in David's care He has received bruising to his face, penis, inner thigh, and his ribs. There is also evidence that David sexually abused Deo. Furthermore, David has a history of violence toward Corina. In fact, he has physically abused Corina and threatened her life on several occasions. David also has a history of substance abuse. Even though Corina knew David smoked marijuana in the presence of the children and that Deo has been injured several times in his care, she continued to rely on David to care for the children.
Upon Deo's release from the hospital in November 1999, the children were removed from their parents' care and placed with their maternal grandmother. Deo and Davossi were adjudicated children in need of assistance (CINA) in February 2000. The parents continued to have supervised visitation. In October 2000 the children were returned to Corina after she entered the Rainbow Recovery House. The children remained with their mother until March 9, 2001. At that time, Rainbow Recovery House indicated they were unwilling to maintain the children at the center because they could not assure their safety given Corina's lack of supervision. The children were placed in foster care, where they have remained.
Deo previously resided with his maternal grandmother from May 1998 to August 1999. Corina admitted she could not care or provide for the child and voluntary left him with the maternal grandmother.
On June 22, 2001, the State filed a petition to terminate parental rights. Following a termination hearing, the juvenile court terminated parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(d) (Supp. 2001). The court also terminated David's parental rights pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h). The parents appeal.
In its order terminating parental rights, the court cites to Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(c) and (g). However, the applicable law in this termination is correctly cited as Iowa Code sections 232.116(1)(d) and (h) (Supp. 2001) due to an amendment to section 232.116 that renumbered the sections but did not substantively alter them.
Standard of Review. We review termination proceedings de novo. In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 492 (Iowa 2000). Although they do not bind us, we give weight to the district court's findings of fact, especially when considering credibility of witnesses. Id. Our primary concern in termination proceedings is the best interests of the children. Id.
Termination of Parental Rights. Upon a careful review of the record, we find there was clear and convincing evidence to terminate the parents' parental rights. Indeed, the evidence was overwhelming. Despite being offered extensive services, David and Corina have not demonstrated the ability to care for their children. The parents have not progressed to unsupervised visitation. Even in a highly structured setting with extensive opportunities for services to address her parenting and therapeutic issues, Corina failed to provide a safe environment for her children. A good prediction of the future conduct of a parent is to look at their past conduct. In re N.F., 579 N.W.2d 338, 341 (Iowa Ct.App. 1998). We are unwilling to extend the children's state of parental limbo while waiting to find out if Corina can successfully change her life once and for all. In addition, David has made little progress with services. He has failed to address his violent behavior. In fact, the juvenile court noted in its CINA review order that "David terrorized Corina with very specific threats of murdering her." He has taken no responsibility for the serious harm he perpetrated upon Deo. He continues to deny his role in the abuse. "At some point, the rights and needs of the child rise above the rights and needs of the parent." In re J.L.W., 570 N.W.2d 778, 781 (Iowa Ct.App. 1997). There is clear and convincing evidence that the children cannot be safely returned to their parents' care. Consequently, the best interests of the children warrant the termination of parental rights. We therefore affirm the juvenile court.