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In re L.H.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 19, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF L.H., Minor Child, R.H., Father, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Gary P. Strausser, District Associate Judge.

         The father appeals the juvenile court's dispositional order confirming the adjudication of his child as a child in need of assistance.

          Mark J. Neary, of Neary Law Office, Muscatine, for appellant father.

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

          Sara Strain Linder of Bray & Klockau, P.L.C., Iowa City, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         A father appeals from the juvenile court's order adjudicating L.H. to be a child in need of assistance (CINA). He contends the juvenile court erred in finding the State proved the grounds for adjudicating the child CINA under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) and (c)(2) (2017). We reverse.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         L.H.[1] came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in June 2016 due to concerns of physical abuse by the father. It was alleged the father assaulted L.H.'s older half-sibling, A.D., when he grabbed A.D.'s neck and pushed him into a doorframe. L.H. did not witness the event. After the incident, the mother called 911 and took A.D. to the hospital. A.D. was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma on the head. Hospital, DHS, and police reports indicate the mother intended to take the children to her father's house after the incident; the mother later testified that she was already residing with her father at the time of the assault on A.D.

         In December 2016, during a Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency visit with the mother, the social worker observed "extreme bruising" on the mother's face, including broken blood vessels in her right eye, two black eyes, and bruises along the mother's forehead and cheeks. The mother claimed a snowball caused the black eyes, and she tripped over a toy and hit a door, which caused the facial bruising. The social worker noted "severe concerns for the presence of domestic violence in the home."

         On January 13, 2017, a contested adjudicatory hearing was held. A DHS representative testified about the June 2016 incident with A.D. and the lack of participation by the father in DHS processes. Another DHS worker testified that since the June 2016 incident, the agency has been unable to meet with the father because he does not respond to phone calls or letters from DHS. The mother testified that A.D. might have exaggerated the June incident with the father. On February 23, the court issued an order finding the father assaulted A.D. in June and adjudicating L.H. and the half-siblings CINA pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) and (c)(2). The order left L.H. and the half-siblings in the care of their mother.

         On April 20, a contested dispositional hearing was held. At the time of the hearing, testimony confirmed the father remained uncooperative with DHS. He refused to submit social history information to the department, and he refused to answer questions asked by the department at the hearing. DHS representatives also testified the father refused to cooperate with paternity testing. The district court issued an order confirming L.H. as CINA, explaining, ...


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