IN THE INTEREST OF L.H., Minor Child, R.H., Father, Appellant,
review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Gary P.
Strausser, District Associate Judge.
State and a child's guardian ad litem seek further review
of a court of appeals decision that reversed the adjudication
of a child as a child in need of assistance. DECISION OF
COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT AFFIRMED.
J. Neary of Neary Law Office, Muscatine, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick (until
withdrawal) and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant Attorneys General,
Strain Linder of Bray & Klockau, P.L.C., Iowa City,
guardian ad litem, for minor child.
further review requires us to determine whether a
father's physical abuse against other family members, and
his history of domestic violence, without physical abuse
against the child, supports an adjudication of the child as
one in need of assistance. The juvenile court determined that
the parent is "imminently likely to abuse or neglect the
child" and that the child "is imminently likely to
suffer harmful effects" due to a "failure of the
child's parent . . . to exercise a reasonable degree of
care in supervising the child." See Iowa Code
§ 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2) (2016). The
court of appeals reversed the juvenile court adjudication of
the child as a child in need of assistance, finding the
father's physical abuse towards other family members did
not establish that the child was at risk of imminent harm. We
granted the State and guardian ad litem's application for
further review. In our de novo review, we conclude the record
supports the juvenile court adjudication of the child as a
child in need of assistance. We therefore vacate the decision
of the court of appeals and affirm the judgment of the
Background Facts and Proceedings.
is the mother of ten-year-old A.D., four-year-old G.G., and
two-year-old L.H. Each child has a different father, but
Danielle is currently involved with the father of L.H., Ryan.
Danielle and Ryan have been in a relationship for
approximately three years and have resided together
intermittently during this time. In June 2016, the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved following
an alleged incident of physical abuse in which Ryan grabbed
A.D. by the neck and slammed him up against a wall after Ryan
became upset with A.D. for locking the bathroom door.
Danielle did not observe the assault. However, she could hear
yelling and then observed A.D. on the floor crying and
holding his head. Following the incident, Danielle called 911
and took A.D. to the hospital. The treating physician
diagnosed A.D. with a subdural hematoma. L.H. did not witness
time of the alleged incident, Danielle and the children
resided with her father in Atalissa during the week. However,
Danielle and the children spent most weekends with Ryan at
his residence in Davenport. At no time during this period
were Danielle and Ryan separated. Following this incident,
DHS took follow-up measures to investigate the abuse
allegation and the safety of all of Danielle's children.
As part of these efforts, DHS spoke with Danielle at length
about her relationship with Ryan. Danielle reported that Ryan
had grabbed A.D. by the neck once before and had done things
that "scare" them in the past. She noted that Ryan
has anger issues that she has spoken to him about and that
Ryan agreed he needed help to address his anger issues.
However, Ryan never took any action to resolve those anger
issues. After its investigation, DHS determined the incident
was a founded case of child abuse with Ryan as the
also reported that Ryan has a history of domestic violence.
On May 7, 2015, Danielle had to go to the hospital after Ryan
kicked her in the head. Additionally, during a family safety,
risk, and permanency visit with Danielle in December 2016, a
social worker observed "extreme bruising on
[Danielle's] face, " including broken blood vessels
in her right eye, two black eyes, and bruises along her
forehead and cheeks. Danielle told the social worker that her
black eyes were the result of a snowball and that her facial
bruising occurred when she tripped over a toy and hit a door.
The social worker also noticed a bump on L.H.'s head,
which Danielle said occurred when L.H. fell off a chair. The
social worker noted "severe concerns for the presence of
domestic violence in the home." Danielle later
acknowledged at the adjudicatory hearing for L.H. that she
reported domestic violence in her relationship with Ryan in
both 2015 and 2016.
addition to Ryan's history of domestic violence with
Danielle, the DHS social history report on L.H. shows Ryan
also has a history of domestic violence in previous
relationships with other women. Ryan has been the subject of
two protective orders with two former partners. In 2007, he
was named the perpetrator of abuse of one of his other
children when he struck the child's mother hard enough
that she fell while holding the child. Specifically, that
mother reported Ryan had been drinking and driving with the
child in the car. When they returned home, the mother went
into the bathroom and Ryan kicked in the door to assault the
mother. The mother reported that Ryan assaulted her three
the DHS investigation into the safety of L.H., Ryan was
noncooperative. The family's assigned service provider
testified that she made multiple attempts to contact Ryan,
but she was unable to reach him. Ryan refused to even talk
with DHS and did not participate in any discussions regarding
a safety plan for L.H. Ryan refused to cooperate with the
preparation of the social history for L.H., even after being
ordered by the court to appear and answer questions. Ryan
refused to answer any questions related to the social history
prepared for L.H. when given the opportunity in court. Ryan
was not part of any safety plan implemented by DHS for the
protection of L.H., and he did not participate in any
services offered by DHS.
DHS investigation progressed, Danielle also became less
cooperative. She refused to allow DHS to meet alone with the
children unless the meetings were court-ordered. She also
began to qualify and modify her earlier statements about the
incident between A.D. and Ryan. Danielle testified that she
thought perhaps A.D. had just "fallen backwards into the
door." The guardian ad litem noted Danielle's lack
of cooperation appeared influenced by Ryan. For example,
within thirty minutes of the child protective worker's