January 11, 2017
IN THE INTEREST OF C.C., Minor child, W.C., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J.
Tabor, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the district court's transfer of her child
from her care to the custody of the department of human
David Zimmerman, Clinton, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
P. Donnelly of Mayer, Lonergan & Rolfes, Clinton,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
A. Kroeger, LeClaire, attorney for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Bower,
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
mother appeals the district court's modification of a
dispositional order, the effect of which was to transfer her
child from her care to the custody of the department of human
Background Facts and Proceedings
thirteen-year-old child who lived with his mother exhibited
aggressive and out-of-control behaviors at school and at
home. The department determined he was "in need of
treatment to cure or alleviate serious mental illness"
and the mother was "unwilling to provide such
State filed a child-in-need-of-assistance petition. The
child's guardian ad litem found the child "had not
been attending school for some time" and "was
exhibiting very inappropriate and aggressive behaviors"
when he attended school. He also reported that the child
might "have a history of being abusive towards his
district court adjudicated the child in need of assistance,
reasoning the mother needed help in meeting his needs. The
court did not remove the child from her custody.
after the adjudication, the guardian ad litem reported
"there [was] a significant level of risk involved in the
current placement, " given the child's "lack of
self-control." Nonetheless, he declined to recommend
immediate removal because the mother was complying with
services and had executed a voluntary safety plan that
required constant supervision of the child. The district
court entered a dispositional order continuing placement with
the mother subject to oversight by the department.
two and one-half months, the State moved to modify the order,
citing a report from the department social worker overseeing
the case that she saw the child at a grocery store without
his mother or another adult. According to the social worker,
the child recognized her and told her his mother was in the
car. When she approached the car and reminded the mother of
the safety plan, the mother failed to acknowledge her
violation. In light of this incident and others, the guardian
ad litem reported he was "increasingly less optimistic
about [the mother's] ability to care for [the child] on
a hearing on the modification motion, the district court
ordered custody of the child transferred to the department
for placement at a residential treatment facility.
appeal, the mother contends the legal requirements for
transfer of the child were not satisfied. Those requirements
are set forth in Iowa Code section 232.103(4) (2015), which
authorizes a court to modify a dispositional order if
"[t]he purposes of the order cannot reasonably be
accomplished" or if "[t]he efforts made to effect
the purposes of the order have been unsuccessful and other
options to effect the purposes of the order are not
available." Iowa Code § 232.103(4)(b), (c). In
addition, our precedent requires a showing of "a
material and substantial change in circumstances."
In re R.F., 471 N.W.2d 821, 824 (Iowa 1991); cf.
In re M.M., No. 16-0548, 2016 WL 4036246, at *4 (Iowa
Ct. App. July 27, 2016) (concluding "the juvenile court
need not find a substantial change in circumstances as a
prerequisite to modification of a dispositional order").
We are persuaded these requirements were satisfied.
modification hearing in September 2016, the department's
social worker recommended a higher level of care for the
child "due to several occurrences of his mother not
being able to meet his safety needs." She expressed
concern that the mother was "not able to see [the
child's] inability to self-protect and his [in]ability to
self-regulate, and le[ft] [the child] alone." She also
explained that the child had not been going to school since
"approximately two and a half weeks into the school
year" because of his aggressive behaviors, manifested by
spitting, hitting, kicking, and cursing at staff. The social
worker stated space was available at a residential facility
on the Monday following the hearing and the facility
"would be able to meet not only his behavioral but his
on the mother's violation of the safety plan and her
inability to facilitate school attendance, we conclude the
purposes of the dispositional order could no longer be served
and there existed a material and substantial change of
circumstances warranting modification of the dispositional
order. While the mother minimized her violation and insisted
she could provide the care the child required, the
child's behavior at school suggests otherwise.
recognize the mother and child share a close bond. The social
worker acknowledged the bond and the child told the district
court he wished to stay with his mother. But the district
court had to balance the bond against the child's safety.
We conclude the department's commitment to facilitate
visitation at the residential facility would preserve the
bond while at the same time ensuring the child's
well-being and academic development.
de novo review, we affirm the district court's
modification of the dispositional order.