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In re A.S.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.S., Minor Child, A.S., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Monroe County, William S. Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.

          Robert F. Bozwell, Jr. of Bozwell Law Office, Centerville, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Ana Dixit, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Julie R. De Vries of De Vries Law Office, PLC, Centerville, guardian ad litem for minor child/appellee.

          Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights, asserting several claims. Because we agree, based on the unique facts of the case, that a guardianship should have been created rather than terminating the mother's parental rights, we reverse the juvenile court's termination-of-parental-rights ruling with respect to the mother. We remand the case back to the juvenile court to enter an order transferring guardianship and custody of the child to the maternal grandparents pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.104(2)(d)(1) (2017).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         A.S. is the mother and J.S. is the father of A.S., born in 2015. The family came to the attention of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2016 after it was reported the child had been sexually abused. Specifically, on February 4, 2016, the mother left the child, then about three months old, in the care of the father, who she knew was intoxicated, for approximately two hours.

Upon [the mother's] return home, she observed [the father] "passed out" and [the child] crying and shaking in a baby swing. [The mother] noticed blood coming from [the child's] diaper. When [the mother] removed the diaper, she noticed injury to [the child's] genitals. [The mother] took [the child] to the . . . hospital. Injuries were observed and [the child] was taken to Blank Children's Hospital by ambulance. [The child] ha[d] suffered injuries from forced sexual abuse. The injuries required surgery. [The mother] made statements she didn't want to believe the child's father caused such injuries.

         The child was removed from the parents' care and subsequently adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA).[1] The child was placed in the custody of the child's maternal grandparents, where the child has since remained.[2] The mother also moved into the maternal grandparents' home and continued to live there throughout the case.

         As directed by the juvenile court, the mother saw a psychologist for a mental-health evaluation in May 2016. The psychologist's report that followed advised:

During [the mother's] schooling, she was in special education services and reported current reading problems. Psychological testing administered during this evaluation placed her intellectual ability in the mildly intellectually disabled/borderline range. Brief screening measures placed her reading and oral comprehension ability at the fourth grade level, with her memory ability in the low average range. . . . [S]he appeared perplexed by more conceptual, open ended questions. ...

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