IN THE INTEREST OF S.P. and K.P., Minor Children, D.P., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Butler County, Peter B.
Newell, District Associate Judge.
mother challenges the juvenile court's finding in its
dispositional order that the Iowa Department of Human
Services had made reasonable efforts toward reunifying her
family. REVERSED AND REMANDED.
A. Kuehner of Eggert, Erb, Mulcahy & Kuehner P.L.L.C.,
Charles City, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Elizabeth A. Batey of Vickers Law Office, Greene, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
S.P. and K.P. refuse to have contact with their mother, Dawn,
who is accused of dealing methamphetamine out of their home.
On appeal, Dawn contends the juvenile court erred in finding
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) had made
reasonable efforts at reunification when no visitation had
been scheduled during the five months the children had been
removed from her care. Although the social workers encouraged
the children to see their mother, the DHS insisted that given
their ages, the children could not be forced to attend
looking at the record anew,  we conclude the DHS failed to
maintain reasonable efforts toward reunification by
delegating the decision regarding visitation entirely to the
children. At the next scheduled review hearing, the juvenile
court should scrutinize the discretion exercised by the DHS
in establishing or not establishing visitation, which would
include securing a recommendation from the children's
therapist regarding the feasibility of reinitiating contact
with their mother through family counseling.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
child-welfare case opened in May 2016 when the Butler County
Sheriff arrested Dawn for operating while intoxicated
(drugged driving) and found eight grams of methamphetamine in
her possession. The State charged Dawn with possession of
methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a class "B"
felony. The DHS placed Dawn's sixteen-year-old daughter,
K.P., and fourteen-year-old son, S.P.,  in the care of
the mother's cousin and her husband. The children had
stayed with these relatives on previous occasions and felt
secure in their home.
2016 incident was not the first family upheaval experienced
by these children. In the spring of 2011, S.P. and K.P. were
adjudicated as children in need of assistance (CINA) after
authorities discovered their parents were manufacturing
methamphetamine. In 2012, the children lost their father to
suicide; the children were present in the home when he took
his life, and S.P. found his father's body. To address
their grief, the children participated in mental health
counseling from August 2013 to May 2014. A second CINA
adjudication occurred in September 2013 based on the
mother's drug use; that case was closed in May 2014.
hearing on August 17, 2016, Dawn stipulated S.P. and K.P.
were CINA under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(l) (2015)
but urged the juvenile court to establish
visitation. Her attorney asked the court to
"order that visitation take place. Our concern is that
if it's not court ordered, that the children's
resistance to have the visitation would prevent them from
occurring." The court responded:
I think that's something that needs to be looked into a
little bit more carefully. Again, I think if the children
need mental health evaluations, we probably want to talk to
their counselors about that and set up something where-I
mean, if the counselors are willing to do that and
there's kind of a therapeutic setting, I think that we
can do that. But I think ...