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In re E.C.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

September 18, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF E.C., A.C., G.N., J.N., and A.N., Minor Children,
v.
B.N., Mother, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jefferson County, William S. Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

A mother appeals from the adjudication of her children as children in need of assistance.

Terri Quartucci, Fairfield, for appellant mother.

William Glass, Keosauqua, for J.N., father of G.N., J.N., and A.N. Patricia Lipsksi, Fairfield, for G.C., father of E.C. and A.C.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, and Tim W. Dille, County Attorney, for appellee State.

Mary Krafka, Ottumwa, for minor children.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.

EISENHAUER, C.J.

A mother appeals from the adjudication of her six[1] children as children in need of assistance. She raises five claims on appeal: (1) reasonable efforts were not made to prevent the initial and continued removal; (2) there is no clear and convincing evidence the children were or continue to be in need of assistance; (3) the court erred in not removing the guardian ad litem upon the mother's request; (4) the judge should have recused himself because of prior contact with the mother in specialty drug court and a prior child-in-need-of-assistance case; and (5) the mother should receive an original of her drug test results instead of a copy provided by the State. We affirm.

The family first came to the attention of the department of human services in 2005 because of substance abuse by the parents and domestic violence. Since then the children have repeatedly been removed from the mother's care while she dealt with substance abuse problems or domestic violence, then returned to her care when she appeared to have overcome her substance abuse issues and the violence had ended when a no-contact order prevented contact by the abuser. The last case was closed in late 2012, and the children were returned to the mother's care. A no-contact order prevented contact by the father of the three youngest children.

In March 2013 the department investigated reports the mother was not caring for the children or providing supervision because she had relapsed on methamphetamine and the father of the three youngest children was in the home despite the no-contact order. The oldest child, who was pregnant, had recently left the home after a fight with the mother and was staying with a neighbor. The child protective worker came to the home with two deputies, who removed the children from the home. The mother refused a hair stat test for drugs without a court order and disputed the children's removal. The two oldest boys were placed in foster care. The youngest three children were placed with their paternal grandmother.

In April the court held a combined adjudicatory hearing and hearing on the temporary removal. The court confirmed the removal, concluded the children were children in need of assistance under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and (n) (2013), and confirmed the children's out-of-home placements as the least restrictive under the circumstances.

In April the mother requested removal of the guardian ad litem. The court held a dispositional hearing in late May. At the hearing the mother's attorney made an oral motion for recusal of the judge because the judge had dealt with the mother previously in family drug treatment court. The court received reports and a case permanency plan with recommendations and left the record open for thirty days for parties to file written objections or comments concerning the reports or the case plan. In June the mother filed a motion for release of drug testing results.

In July the court issued its dispositional order and addressed all pending motions and objections. The court overruled the motion for recusal based on a failure to prove actual prejudice. It overruled the motion to remove the guardian ad litem as untimely and moot.[2] The court overruled the motion for release of drug test results, but provided the State would make the results available to the mother's attorney. It concluded the least-restrictive appropriate placement for the children was out of the home and the children would be in ...


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