IN THE INTEREST OF K.J., Minor Child, H.J., Mother, Appellant, K.J., Minor Child, Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine Dalton, District Associate Judge.
A mother and child appeal separately from the permanency review order placing the child with the father.
Patricia A. Rolfstad, Davenport, for appellant mother.
Timothy J. Tupper, Davenport, for appellant child.
Steven W. Stickle of Stickle Law Firm, P.L.C., Davenport, for father.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, and Julie Walton, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.
Christine Frederick of Zamora, Taylor, Woods & Frederick, Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.
A mother and child appeal separately from the permanency review order changing the child's placement from foster care to placement with the father. The mother contends the court erred in changing the permanency goal from reunification with her to placement with the father because (1) the State did not prove the child could not be returned to the mother's care at that time or in the near future and (2) transfer of custody is not in the child's best interests. The child, born in 1999, contends the court erred in transferring custody because (1) it did not have statutory authority to change custody at a review hearing and (2) the State did not prove a material and substantial change in circumstances. We affirm on both appeals.
The child was placed in the mother's custody in 2004 when the parents divorced. The father moved to Texas, where he still lives. The mother and her children came to the attention of the department of human services in May 2011 based on concerns this child's younger sibling was failing to thrive and the home was filthy and unsanitary. The children were removed from the mother's care in August,  placed in family foster care, and adjudicated children in need of assistance in December. The mother was charged with felony child endangerment. Her criminal case, continued several times, remained pending at the time of the May 2013 permanency review hearing giving rise to this appeal.
Throughout these proceedings, the mother has refused to acknowledge she did anything wrong. She blames the condition of the house on an adult daughter, who also lived with her. She blamed the condition of the younger child on that child. The mother exercised supervised visitation with the child in interest. The court twice denied her requests for increased visitation because of her lack of progress in therapy. She participated in therapy, but refused to sign releases so the department and the therapist could exchange information. The child in interest is closely bonded with the mother, but is in intense therapy to address the abuse suffered at the mother's hands, the abuse the child was told to perpetrate against the younger child, and possible sexual abuse.
When the father was informed of the proceedings, he had no relationship with this child, but he made efforts to start and develop a relationship. He made phone calls and visited the child in Iowa. The child visited the father in Texas. The father completed a favorable interstate compact home study to be approved as a placement for the child. He also made arrangements for individual counseling for the child and family-centered services for both of them. He completed a mental health evaluation and parenting classes, and he was willing to participate in individual counseling if it is believed to be necessary.
Following a contested permanency review hearing in May 2013, the court changed the child's placement from foster care to placement with the father. The court found termination of the mother's parental rights was not appropriate, noting no party requested termination and the child "strenuously" objected to termination. The court found the child could not be returned to the mother's care because the mother had failed to address the circumstances leading to the child's removal and adjudication. The court further found continued placement in foster care as another planned permanent ...