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In re Guardianship of Hinkhouse

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 23, 2013

IN RE THE GUARDIANSHIP OF JAYTON DOUGLAS HINKHOUSE, SHANNA KELLOR, Mother-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

A mother appeals from the order removing her as guardian of her adult son.

Matthew J. Reilly of Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Shanna Kellor, West Liberty, appellant pro se.

Alan Ostergren, County Attorney, Muscatine, for guardian appellee.

Mark J. Neary, Muscatine, for appellee Jayton Hinkhouse.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

A mother who was previously appointed as guardian appeals from the order removing her as guardian of her adult son. She contends there is a parental preference, she performed her duties adequately, she was never granted "other powers or duties" as provided in Iowa Code section 633.635(1)(f) (2009), and she is an appropriate guardian for her son. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

The mother was appointed guardian of her son in 2010 when he was seventeen because his decision-making capacity was so impaired by reason of his mental and intellectual limitations that he was unable to care for his personal safety or to attend to and provide for such necessities as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. See Iowa Code § 633.552(2)(a). Once he reached majority, he qualified as a dependent adult because of autism, retardation, bipolar mood disorder, conduct disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, pervasive development disorder, and an IQ of forty-five.

During 2010 and into 2011 the ward was unsuccessful in residential placements because of his aggressive and disruptive behavior, was arrested for criminal mischief and received a deferred judgment, and was involuntarily committed due to his mental illnesses. A dispute arose between the guardian and the director of Muscatine County Community Services over the appropriate placement for the ward. Consequently, the director of Muscatine County Community Services applied to be appointed successor guardian, alleging the guardian was not acting in the ward's best interests concerning his mental health treatment and residential placement. The director was appointed temporary guardian pending trial on his application. During his temporary tenure as guardian, the director arranged for the ward's transfer from inpatient commitment to a community-based facility. Following an October trial on the director's application, the court denied the application and restored the mother to her duties as guardian, noting it was "not convinced that the ward's mother is inappropriate to serve as the ward's guardian." However, the court cautioned the guardian "she must cooperate with the provision of mental health services to the ward in the context of the ward's involuntary mental health commitment. Refusal or failure to do so ultimately could result in removal of the ward's mother as his guardian."

The ward's community-based placement was unsuccessful; over a period of a few months in 2011, the ward was taken to a hospital emergency room five times, four of which required hospitalization for his mental illness. In early 2012 the ward was arrested for arson. Through a plea agreement, the charge was reduced to criminal mischief, and the ward was sentenced to time served. Upon the ward's release from jail, the guardian had no placement arranged and could not take him into her home, so she placed him with his father, knowing the father has health issues, struggles with alcoholism, and has cognitive deficits as a result of a head injury. The ward soon was involved with the police—first when he stole some of his father's checks from a closed checking account and used them around town to buy snacks and cigarettes, then when he was walking down the middle of the road at night and almost caused a head-on collision, and again when he was reported missing and found a few hours later soaking wet from walking in the rain in cold weather. An investigation into the guardian's placement of the ward with his father resulted in a founded abuse report for denial of critical care with the guardian as perpetrator and also in criminal charges against the guardian, which were resolved through a deferred prosecution agreement.

In February 2012 the court entered an order removing the mother as guardian and appointing Muscatine County Community Services as the emergency successor guardian. The successor guardian found a suitable placement for the ward. In September the court held a contested hearing to determine whether the emergency successor guardian should be appointed as permanent guardian or the guardianship should revert to the mother. The court noted the guardian had failed to cooperate with service providers, refused to sign appropriate releases to facilitate communication between professionals involved with the ward resulting in ...


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