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In re S.D.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 6, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF S.D., Minor Child, CD., Mother, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Angela L. Doyle, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the order adjudicating her child as a child in need of assistance.

          Neven J. Conrad of Baker, Johnsen, Sandblom & Lemmenes, Humboldt, for appellant mother.

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

          Sarah J. Livingston of Thatcher, Tofilon & Livingston, P.L.C., Fort Dodge, for minor child.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         A mother appeals the order adjudicating her child as a child in need of assistance (CINA) pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2) (2017) (defining a CINA as an unmarried 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 232.2(6)(g) ("[w]hose parent . . . fails to exercise a minimal degree of care in supplying the child adequate food . . . and refuses other means made available to provide such essentials").

         The child, S.D., was born in September 2016 weighing six pounds and one-half ounce. Wellness checkups indicated the child was gaining weight adequately, though the child continued to be in a very low weight range. At a March 23, 2017 checkup the child weighed thirteen pounds, eight ounces, which is in the first percentile. The mother was instructed to attempt a regular feeding schedule, was advised about appropriate foods, and was told to have the child's weight checked weekly. A follow-up appointment was made but cancelled by the mother. A weight check was conducted on April 6, 2017; the child then weighed thirteen pounds, fifteen ounces.[1]

         On May 26, the mother and her new husband[2] presented the child to a Minnesota emergency room. The child was dehydrated from diarrhea and weighed twelve pounds, twelve ounces. The mother indicated she was breastfeeding the eight-month-old child but the child also ate solid foods such as pizza and cheeseburgers. The mother did not want any testing done on the child and did not want the child to be given formula.

         The hospital personnel contacted human services. An emergency removal order was entered, and the child remained hospitalized for two weeks. A child-abuse assessment was conducted and founded against the mother for neglect due to malnourishment and failure to provide adequate foods. It was also noted the mother had not followed up with weight checks on the child despite medical concerns expressed in March 2017.

         S.D.'s biological father, L.M., came to Minnesota and visited the child. A home study found his home was safe for the child. Following the child's release from the hospital, the child was placed in L.M.'s care, under the supervision of the department of human services (DHS).

         A CINA adjudication and disposition hearing was held on August 23, after which the juvenile court found the State had presented "absolutely overwhelming" evidence that the child was a CINA. The court noted:

In making my decision, I have relied upon the medical professionals. The testimony of Kathleen Lee, the pediatric nurse-practitioner at Unity Point, indicates to me that her findings at the six month well-baby check were abnormal. Miss Lee specifically noted poor weight gain. Even if the mother had no clue prior to March of 2017, that the child's weight was a concern, she certainly did after that appointment with Ms. Lee on March 15th of 2017. Miss Lee ...

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