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In re J.S.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

December 18, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF J.S. AND N.S., Minor Children, A.S., Mother, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Julie Schumacher, District Associate Judge.

The mother appeals the juvenile court's adjudication that her children, J.S. and N.S., are children in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) (2013).

David A. Dawson, Sioux City, for appellant mother.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick Jennings, County Attorney, and Diane Murphy, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Tobias Cosgrove, Sioux City, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

McDONALD, J.

Ashley appeals from an order adjudicating her children, J.S. and N.S., in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code section 232(6)(a), (b), and (c)(2) (2013). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

I.

This family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in April 2013, when it was alleged that Ashley was using methamphetamine while caring for her children. In May 2013, DHS requested that Ashley undergo a drug test; she complied and tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine, cannabinoids, and carboxy-THC. She admitted to DHS that she had relapsed following completion of the Women's and Children's Center treatment program in September 2012. J.S. and N.S. were voluntarily placed with their maternal grandparents in South Sioux City. DHS offered voluntary services to Ashley, and Ashley entered inpatient substance abuse treatment.

Based on the positive drug test, DHS found that Ashley committed child abuse for denial of critical care. The juvenile court held an adjudication hearing in September 2013. The hearing was not reported. No witnesses were called. The State's exhibits were admitted into evidence without objection. The juvenile court adjudicated J.S. and N.S. in need of assistance pursuant to Iowa Code sections 232.2(6)(a), (b), and (c)(2). The adjudication under paragraph (a) relates only to the fathers of J.S. and N.S., and the fathers do not appeal the adjudication. Ashley consented to the adjudication pursuant to section 232.2(6)(c)(2), and she does not challenge that adjudication in this appeal. At the time of the hearing, Ashley resisted adjudication pursuant to section 232.2(6)(b), and she challenges that ground in this appeal.

II.

Before turning to the merits of Ashley's argument, we must assure ourselves that the issue is properly presented for appellate review. As a general rule, this court will "affirm the trial court if one ground, properly urged, exists to support the decision." In re L.G., 532 N.W.2d 478, 480 (Iowa Ct. App. 1995). This is true because "appellate courts confine their review to judicial action or inaction, not the reasons underlying the decision." Id. Notwithstanding this general rule, a party may seek appellate review of one ground for adjudicating a child in need of assistance even where conceding another ground for adjudication was proper if the challenged ground has independent legal consequences for the parent and child that must be addressed:

The underlying grounds of adjudication in child in need of assistance cases have important legal implications beyond the adjudication. The grounds for adjudication may affect the course of the dispositional phase of the case, and may even be the basis for a subsequent proceeding for termination of a parent-child relationship. Much ...

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