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In re L.F.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 19, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF L.F., Minor Child, S.F., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H. Liesveld, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the adjudication of her child as a child in need of assistance following a dispositional hearing.

          Ellen R. Ramsey-Kacena, Cedar Rapids, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Julie Gunderson Trachta of Linn County Advocate, Cedar Rapids, guardian ad litem for minor child.

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

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the adjudication of her child as a child in need of assistance.[1]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         L.F., born June 2015, came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in August 2016, upon allegations of child abuse and denial of critical care by the mother. Specifically, the DHS, alerted by medical providers, was concerned the mother was fabricating medical symptoms and insisting L.F. undergo extensive and unnecessary medical evaluations and treatment. The mother began bringing L.F. to the emergency room shortly after L.F. was born, reporting the baby would vomit after eating. Between June 27 and August 4, 2016, the mother brought L.F. to the hospital at least nineteen times, asserting L.F. was allergic to several varieties of food, which she believed caused both vomiting and diarrhea. However, despite the mother's reports, multiple physicians informed the DHS that L.F. had not shown any remarkable symptoms during her hospitalizations. The physicians had doubts about the veracity of the information they received from the mother and concerns the mother was feeding L.F. an inappropriate diet, potentially causing some of the symptoms. Several rounds of food-allergy testing ultimately revealed that L.F. did not have any food allergies.

         Following an unrelated procedure, the physicians told the mother that L.F. needed to be on a normal, regular food diet. Despite that recommendation, the mother refused to give L.F. regular food and insisted on a diet consisting only of donated breast milk. Nurses also reported concerns about the mother's behavior towards L.F., including forcibly changing L.F.'s diaper, shaking L.F.'s crib while telling her to "shut up, " and physically striking L.F. on one occasion. The child abuse specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics was concerned the mother's behavior was rooted in a mental-health disorder, such as pediatric condition falsification (also known as Munchausen by proxy). Ultimately, a child abuse assessment performed by the DHS found the allegation of denial of critical care was founded.

         On August 24, the State filed a petition to adjudicate L.F. a child in need of assistance. Following a contested adjudication hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated L.F. a child in need of assistance under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) and 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2016). The dispositional order of May 9, 2017, ordered L.F. "remain with her parents while under the protective supervision of the Department of Human Services."

         The mother appeals.

         II. Scope and ...


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