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In re L.R.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF L.R., Minor Child, M.R., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

         A mother appeals from a dispositional order and the removal of her child from her custody.

          Christine E. Boyer, Iowa City, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen Witte Kraemer, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Mark J. Neary of Neary Law Office, Muscatine, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         A mother[1] appeals from a dispositional order and the removal of her child, L.R., from her custody. The mother contends there is not clear and convincing evidence supporting the grounds for adjudication of the child as a child in need of assistance (CINA), there was insufficient evidence to order the child's removal, and reasonable efforts to achieve reunification were not provided. Because the record reflects the mother's progress in addressing her mental-health issues has not eliminated the imminent likelihood L.R. will suffer harm and will not receive adequate care, we affirm.

         L.R., born October 2016, is under the age of one. The mother is diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder, factitious disorder imposed upon another with a rule out[2], and borderline intellectual functioning. The mother's mental-health issues interfere with her ability to maintain stability in general life functions and to process information, and they cause the mother to engage in attention-seeking behavior. For example, the mother mismanages finances- often buying unneeded clothing and toys for her children and then struggling to retain money to pay rent and utilities bills. Additionally, the mother has frequently moved residences and, when able, has kept an unreasonably large number of animals in her home.

         More concerning is the danger posed to L.R. due to the mother's factitious disorder imposed upon another. L.R.'s older sibling, E.R., was removed from the mother's care because the mother was administering seizure medication to E.R. despite knowing the medication was not needed. A department of human services (DHS) worker reported the mother overfeeds L.R. and feeds L.R. inappropriate food, causing L.R. to vomit. Instead of taking L.R. to a pediatrician, the mother took L.R. to a chiropractor to address the vomiting. The mother did not heed the advice of professionals when told she was overfeeding L.R., and she directed L.R.'s daycare provider to continue feeding L.R. the same quantity of food. The mother also directed the daycare provider to continue treating L.R. for eczema when L.R.'s eczema had already cleared up.

         L.R. was adjudicated a CINA on May 3, 2017, pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) and 232.2(6)(n) (2017). After a hearing held July 6, the district court concluded the mother had not made the necessary progress in addressing her mental-health issues to ensure L.R.'s safety and entered a dispositional order removing L.R. from the mother's care.[3] The mother now appeals.

         Our review of child-in-need-of-assistance proceedings is de novo. In re J.S., 846 N.W.2d 36, 40 (Iowa 2014). "In reviewing the proceedings, we are not bound by the juvenile court's fact findings; however, we do give them weight. Our primary concern is the child[ ]'s best interests." Id. "CINA determinations must be based upon clear and convincing evidence." Id. at 41.

         Pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2), a CINA means a child "who has suffered or is imminently likely to suffer harmful effects as a result of . . . [t]he failure of the child's parent, . . . to exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising the child." And section 232.2(6)(n) defines a CINA as a child "[w]hose parent's . . . mental capacity or condition, . . . results in the child not receiving adequate care." In the adjudicatory order, the district court explained:

[T]he mother has histrionic personality disorder, which caused her to misinterpret [E.R.]'s behaviors and to exaggerate those behaviors and make decisions based upon a desire for attention which put [E.R.] in harm's way, and caused [E.R.] to experience traumatic events. The mother is still suffering from that diagnosis. She has a significant history of lying, which includes lying about a pregnancy. The court finds that the mother lied to medical professionals about [E.R.]'s health, misinterpreted [E.R.]'s health, and the mother ...

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