IN THE INTEREST OF A.J., Minor Child, D.J., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Julie A.
Schumacher, District Associate Judge.
father appeals from the juvenile court's dispositional
review order in a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding.
J. Twinamatsiko of Crary Huff, Sioux City, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Stephanie S. Forker Parry of Forker & Parry, Sioux City,
attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
MULLINS, Presiding Judge.
father of A.J., age four, appeals from the juvenile
court's dispositional review order in a
child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) proceeding. He argues the
State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a
substantial and material change in circumstances existed to
modify the custody provision of the court's prior
dispositional order. We affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings
2016, the juvenile court adjudicated the child CINA, pursuant
to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), and (n) (2016).
A.J. had been the subject of at least four child protective
services assessments before she was adjudicated CINA, three
of which involved the father. There had been reports the
father was "rough" with A.J. and physically
disciplined her with a belt. The father was also involved in
an incident of domestic violence involving A.J.'s mother
that A.J. witnessed. The father repeatedly refused to
cooperate with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS)
regarding these incidents. The father was also the subject of
an investigation by law enforcement for allegations of sexual
father has a lengthy history of domestic violence. At the
time of the adjudication, the father was living with A.J.,
his girlfriend, their child together, and his
girlfriend's older child. The father's girlfriend
described incidents in which the father had hit her when she
was pregnant and also when she was holding their infant child
or her older child. She testified the father had also hit her
in the head and face and called her derogatory names. She
admitted she had hit the father. The father admitted he had
been physical with his girlfriend and had broken items in the
home when he was angry. The court acknowledged the
father's history of domestic violence, his
anger-management issues, and that all three children had
witnessed the violence. The court noted A.J. had begun
mimicking the violence, throwing objects at the father's
girlfriend, hitting her, and yelling at the girlfriend's
child. The court also found the father treated his
girlfriend's other child poorly and his girlfriend used
foul language toward A.J., which A.J. repeated. The
child's guardian ad litem (GAL) expressed reservations
about the father's continued custody of the child but did
not resist the custodial arrangement at that time. The court
noted it shared similar concerns given the father's
history but ultimately determined it was in the child's
best interests to remain in the father's custody under
the protective supervision of DHS, so long as the father
cooperated with services and did not allow contact between
the child and his girlfriend.
August, the court held a dispositional hearing at which the
father admitted to physically disciplining A.J. by
"whooping" her and smacking her in the face. The
father also admitted he had instructed his girlfriend to
physically discipline A.J. and frequently allowed his
girlfriend to provide unsupervised care for the child. The
court noted the father and his girlfriend had continued to
expose the children to domestic violence in the home and
admonished the father for physically disciplining A.J. and
for instructing his girlfriend to physically discipline her.
The court warned the father that, if DHS received any
information regarding further physical discipline of A.J. or
reports of domestic violence between the father and his
girlfriend, both could serve as a basis for the removal of
the child from his custody. The court further acknowledged
DHS had observed his home to be cluttered and dirty, with
food wrappers, dishes, and other items scattered on the floor
and the carpet to be extremely soiled. Nevertheless, DHS
recommended A.J. remain in the custody of her father, and the
State and the GAL reluctantly agreed; A.J.'s mother
resisted the recommendations. The court hesitantly continued
placement of A.J. with her father and ordered the father to
participate in parenting classes and a psychological
court held a dispositional review hearing two months later.
At the hearing, the father testified he was no longer in a
relationship and had not used physical discipline for A.J.
since he had begun parenting classes. He admitted he had
anger-management issues but denied having any mental-health
issues. He admitted he did not obtain a psychological
evaluation until early October; thus his results were
unavailable at the time of the hearing. The father testified
A.J. had been accepted into a preschool program but he chose
not to enroll her despite repeated requests by DHS.
State presented evidence of several incidents that had
occurred since the dispositional hearing in August. On one
occasion, the father slept through a visit with his younger
child and the service provider was required to parent A.J.
during that time. On another occasion in late September, when
the service provider arrived at the father's home in the
late morning to pick A.J. up for a visit with her mother, the
father was still in bed and his girlfriend was parenting A.J.
in violation of the court's order. About one week before
the review hearing in October, the service provider was
present in the father's home for a supervised visit with
his younger child and observed A.J. step on a block and begin
to cry. The father believed A.J. was merely seeking attention
and became agitated with the child. He called the child
negative names and sent her to her room. The service provider