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In re R.J.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 19, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF R.J. and X.W., Minor Children, R.J., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Cheryl E. Traum, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals a permanency review order transitioning two children from his temporary custody to the custody and care of their mother.

          Joshua T. Cobie of Brubaker, Flynn & Darland, P.C., Davenport, for appellant father.

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

          Steven W. Stickle of Stickle Law Firm, P.L.C., Davenport, guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother's two children were removed from her care and placed with the father of one of the children. This father appeals a permanency review order transitioning both children from his temporary custody to the custody and care of their mother.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The department of human services became involved with the family in mid-2015 based on the mother's heroin and cocaine use. The district court removed the children from the mother's care and placed them in the temporary custody of the younger child's father.[1] Except for a few days, the children remained in his temporary custody through the permanency review hearing.

         Meanwhile, the mother progressed with substance abuse treatment and, in mid-2016, the district court ruled that the children could likely be returned to her custody within six months. Given her continued progress, the court later filed a permanency order authorizing the children's transition to her care and custody in the ensuing two months.

         During this transition period, the department discovered that the mother had been dishonest with the agency on several fronts. A month before the permanency review hearing, the department curtailed overnight visits and moved to fully supervised visits. At the permanency review hearing, the professionals involved with the case, including the guardian ad litem, recommended against returning the children to her care.

         The district court characterized their concerns as "valid" but found "no evidence that the mother has relapsed or that the children have been harmed while in her care since this case opened." The court determined, "The adjudicatory harm has lessened to the point that the mother is a viable placement" and "returning the children to the custody of the mother is in the children's best interest." The court ordered the department "to transition the children back into the mother's care within 30 days, " with continued services. The younger child's father appealed.

         II. ...


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