IN THE INTEREST OF A.M., Minor Child, D.M., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Stephen A.
Owen, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals the adjudication of her teenaged daughter as a
child in need of assistance.
Daniela Matasovic of Matasovic Law Firm, Ames, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Shannon M. Leighty of the Public Defender Office, Nevada,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
mother, Deborah, challenges the juvenile court's finding
that her seventeen-year-old daughter,  A.M., is a child
in need of assistance (CINA). Deborah admits striking A.M.
but attributes the physical conflict to A.M.'s rebellious
attitude and argues the one-time incident does not merit
involvement of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS)
with their family. Because the juvenile court's
adjudication and disposition are supported by clear and
convincing evidence, we affirm.
August 2017, a child protective assessment investigator came
to A.M.'s home to investigate an allegation that Deborah
punched A.M. in the arm. Deborah acknowledged hitting her
daughter in frustration over her defiant behavior. Both
Deborah and A.M. described a badly strained mother-daughter
relationship. The investigator noted A.M.'s four-to-five
inch bruise, fading but still visible more than one week
after the contact. The investigator observed A.M. was
"incredibly thin with almost no fat on her body"
and "extremely pale." Deborah told the investigator
A.M. "refused to eat" and complained about stomach
issues. According to medical records, A.M. was diagnosed in
2012 with failure to thrive but had not been diagnosed with
an eating disorder. The investigator did not conclude Deborah
was withholding food from A.M. But the investigator decided
the allegation of physical abuse was founded.
State filed a CINA petition on August 28, 2017, citing Iowa
Code section 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), and (g) (2017). The
juvenile court held an adjudication hearing in late October,
hearing testimony from A.M.'s mother, father, and older
sister, as well as two family friends and the DHS social
worker. On October 30, 2017, the juvenile court issued an
adjudication order, finding clear and convincing evidence to
support the State's allegations under section 232.2(6)(b)
and (c)(2). The juvenile court found the family needed aid
from the DHS, opining:
[A.M.'s] family did recognize the discordant and
dysfunctional family relationships for a significant period
of time before the Iowa DHS child abuse assessment
investigation was commenced, but failed to take any action
until after they had DHS contact. [Deborah] claims to have
undertaken significant research to improve her parenting that
was unsuccessful and ultimately led to the perpetration of
physical abuse against [A.M.]. This further suggests the need
for a higher level of oversight and the provision of services
under the auspices of the court's authority to
professionally service the child's and family's
November 15, 2017 report, the DHS recommended A.M. and her
parents engage in individual and family counseling. Six days
later, the juvenile court held a hearing and entered a
dispositional order, continuing the CINA adjudication and
requiring the parties to participate in the recommended
mental-health treatment and counseling. The court also
accepted the State's recommendation that the case
automatically close on January 31, 2018. The court noted the
limited scope and duration of the recommended services did
not mean A.M. and her family could not benefit from the help.
Deborah appeals the CINA adjudication and dispositional
appeal, Deborah challenges the statutory basis for the CINA
finding. Under state law, a child in need of assistance means
"an unmarried child . . . [w]hose parent . . . has
physically abused or neglected the child, or is imminently
likely to abuse or neglect the child." Iowa Code §
232.2(6)(b). The definition also includes 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." Iowa Code § 232.2(6)(c)(2).
argues the "one-time incident" did not rise to the
level of "physical abuse" under subsection (6)(b)
because her intent as a mother was to discipline and provide
structure for A.M. Deborah asserts A.M. "provoked"
the incident by being verbally abusive. But Deborah also
asserts she was immediately remorseful after hitting her
daughter. As for subparagraph (6)(c)(2), Deborah contends the
State offered no evidence to show a lack of supervision or a