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In the Interest of M.C.

March 13, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Stephen A. Owen, District Associate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tabor, J.

A sixteen-year-old girl adjudicated as delinquent appeals the juvenile court's modification of its dispositional order. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

M.C. appeals the juvenile court's decision to place her in residential treatment after finding she violated the terms of her probation. Specifically, she contends the State failed to present clear and convincing evidence that a more restrictive placement was necessary. M.C. also alleges the juvenile court failed to find the State made reasonable efforts to prevent removal from her home and denied her due process by relying on a mental evaluation not presented as evidence at the modification hearing.

We find no merit in M.C.'s protests. The record supports the juvenile court's view that M.C. did not respect authority, was not engaged in her rehabilitation, and was being enabled by her parents in avoiding responsibility for her delinquent acts. Given these circumstances, we agree an out-of-home placement was essential to impressing upon M.C. that her misconduct carried consequences.

Although the modification order did not include the phrase "reasonable efforts," we conclude the juvenile court nevertheless complied with Iowa Code section 232.52(7)(a) (2011) by detailing the steps taken by the State to keep M.C. in her home, which fit the definition of reasonable efforts in section 232.57. Finally, the court did not violate M.C.'s due process rights by considering a mental examination that was incorporated into the predisposition report prepared pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.48 and never challenged by M.C. before this appeal.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

During the summer of 2011, fifteen-year-old M.C. repeatedly drew the

attention of the Story City police department. Around 11 p.m. on July 21, 2011, she and several other teens were caught tossing light bulbs from the roof of a downtown building. Police referred M.C. to juvenile court services on criminal trespass charges. Ten days later, and again just after 11 p.m., an officer saw M.C. and three other juveniles had dropped their bicycles on railroad property. As the officer approached, the group took off. The officer then noticed a fire had been set on the railroad property. The police reported M.C. to juvenile authorities for reckless use of fire and trespass.

M.C. admitted her involvement in both the July 21 and July 31 incidents. On August 10, 2011, she agreed to an informal adjustment, which required her to comply with all laws; obey her parents' rules; follow curfew hours; maintain scheduled appointments with her juvenile court officer; report contact with any law enforcement; complete community service; attend therapy; complete a three-session weekend offender course; and cooperate with "enhanced community supervision," which required M.C. to check in with a tracker.

After M.C. failed to satisfy the terms of the informal probation, the State filed a delinquency petition on October 19, 2011, alleging reckless use of fire and criminal trespass. On January 25, 2012, M.C. agreed to admit trespass in exchange for the State's withdrawal of the reckless-use-of-fire charge. Both parties agreed she would undergo a pre-dispositional evaluation, which would be considered part of the dispositional materials. The juvenile court held a dispositional hearing on April 9, 2012 and placed M.C. on one year of formal probation with the same terms as her informal adjustment agreement.

Over the next few months M.C. violated several terms of her probation, including breaking curfew, failing to complete her community service requirements, missing check-ins with her tracker, and refusing to attend the weekend programs. On April 24, 2012, she received a citation for driving without a valid license. M.C. did not report the citation or her July 12 conviction to Candace Tollakson, her juvenile court officer. The next month an officer gave her a verbal warning for driving without a license.

Because of her failure to comply with the conditions of probation, the State sought to transfer M.C.'s custody from her home to an inpatient residential treatment facility. On August 8, 2012, the district court held a hearing on the State's motion to modify.*fn1 After reviewing the dispositional report and receiving evidence, the court modified the dispositional order, transferring MC.'s custody to the ...

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