IN THE INTEREST OF D.S., Minor Child, D.S., Minor Child, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Jason A.
Burns, District Associate Judge.
child, through his attorney, appeals the permanency order
entered by the juvenile court placing him with his father.
Natalie H. Cronk of Cronk & Waterman, P.L.C., Iowa City,
for appellant minor child.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Evenson of Larson & Evenson, Iowa City, guardian ad litem
for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., Bower, J., and Mahan, S.J.
child, through his attorney, appeals a permanency order
entered by the juvenile court placing him with his father.
Upon our review, we affirm the court's order.
Background Facts and Proceedings
January 2016, D.S. and his sibling were removed from their
mother's care upon reports of abuse on the children; the
mother was charged with child endangerment and violation of a
no-contact order stemming from the incident. D.S. was placed
in family foster care under the custody of the department of
human services (DHS), where he has remained since removal.
father was first served notice of these proceedings on
February 9, 2016. The father, who lives in Mississippi, was
not listed on the child's birth certificate, but the
parties did not dispute he was D.S.'s biological father.
Although the father and mother ended their relationship
before the child's birth in 2007, they had been in
contact over the years and the father consistently paid child
support for D.S.
child was adjudicated a child in need of assistance later
that month; the father did not appear at the hearing. On
March 3, 2016, the father filed a financial affidavit and
request for counsel; the court entered an order appointing
counsel that same day. Through his attorney, the father filed
a motion for an interstate compact home study and a request
for services, including initiation of contact with D.S. The
father participated in the hearings that followed. He began
visiting the child in the summer of 2016, and he had contact
with the child through written correspondence and phone
father continued to reside in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he
was born and raised. The father has a large family support
network in Tupelo. He lives with his sister and her children
in a house owned by their mother. He has worked for the same
employer since 2012. The father has six other children whom
he pays child support for; the father has contact with all
but one of those children, attends their sporting events, and
participates "in their everyday lives" in
Mississippi. The father volunteers for his church and coaches
youth football. He is described as "soft spoken, "
"selfless, " "patien[t], "
"supportive, " and "hard work[ing]."
March 2017, the Mississippi home study resulted in a denial
of placement. This conclusion was based in part on defects in
the home study- including use of the wrong date of birth for
the father (which resulted in reporting an incorrect criminal
history) and the wrong date of birth for the child-as well as
the father's failure to respond accurately to some
questions on the study. Service providers agreed "that it
was a very poor home study" and another should be
ordered, but there was no telling how long that would take.
As of December 2017, another home study had yet to be
the court extended the permanency goal of reunification for
six additional months several times. The mother remained
without stable housing or employment, but she engaged in
semi-supervised visits with the child. During the course of
this proceeding, the child understandably "change[d] his
mind frequently" about where he wanted to live,
including with his mother, with his half-sister and her
father in Indiana, with his father, and with his foster
family. D.S. has explained that he likes his father and his
foster parents both "110%" and, although he felt
comfortable in his school and current placement, he desired
the court make the placement decision for him. After an
extended visit to Mississippi in the summer of 2017, D.S.
reported he had a "lot of fun" and he wanted to
live with his father. At that point, the child's attorney
and guardian ad litem requested her role be bifurcated and a
new guardian ad litem be appointed to represent D.S. The
court granted that request.
permanency hearing took place over two days in September and
December 2017. The court granted the foster parents'
motion to intervene. They expressed an interest in adopting
D.S. if his parents' parental rights were terminated. The
father requested the child be placed with him, and he
indicated he was ready and able to care for the child in
Mississippi. The State and the guardian ad litem recommended
the court place the child with the father. DHS recommended
termination of parental rights but acknowledged its
recommendation was premised on the child's need for
permanency and the fact that the Mississippi home study was
still incomplete. The mother opined the child should be
placed with the father if he could not be returned to her
care. The child's attorney recommended termination of
parental rights, or alternatively, a guardianship with the
foster parents. The foster parents requested the court
establish a guardianship.
juvenile court entered its permanency order on December 18,
2017. Having determined termination of parental rights is not
in the child's best interests at this time and that
"the mother is not a safe and stable placement for the
child at this time, " the court proceeded to the
question of whether placement with the father is a safe
option that would serve the child's best interests.
Ultimately, the court ordered custody of the child to be
placed with the father and changed the permanency goal to
"remain with father." The court ordered the
effective date for the transfer of custody to take place
between December 22, 2017 and January 12, 2018, in order
"to allow the child to finish school and prepare for ...