IN THE INTEREST OF Z.S., Minor Child, D.S., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Angela L.
Doyle, District Associate Judge.
father appeals the adjudication of his child as a child in
need of assistance and the continued placement of the child
in the mother's care and custody.
Douglas E. Cook of Cook Law Office, Jewell, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
J. Livingston of Thatcher, Tofilon & Livingston, P.L.C.,
Fort Dodge, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
father appeals the adjudication of his child, Z.S., as a
child in need of assistance (CINA) and the continued
placement of the child in the mother's care and custody.
The father asserts there is not clear and convincing evidence
to adjudicate Z.S. CINA pursuant to Iowa Code section
232.2(6)(c)(2) and (6)(f) (2017). He also claims the
continued placement of Z.S. in the mother's care is not
in the child's best interests and argues the family
should be returned to its previous equally-shared care
review CINA proceedings de novo. In re K.N., 625
N.W.2d 731, 733 (Iowa 2001). In doing so, "[w]e review
'both the facts and the law, and we adjudicate rights
anew.'" Id. (citation omitted). "As in
all juvenile proceedings, our fundamental concern is the best
interests of the child." Id.
"[t]he grounds for a CINA adjudication do matter, "
we consider whether there is clear and convincing evidence to
support adjudication under both of the subsections. In re
J.S., 846 N.W.2d 36, 41 (Iowa 2014); see also
Iowa Code § 232.96(9). We start with section
232.2(6)(c)(2), which requires a determination that the child
"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." The definition of
"harmful effects" is broad and generally
"pertains to the physical, mental or social welfare of a
child." J.S., 846 N.W.2d at 42 (citation
the father took Z.S. for his regularly scheduled month-long
visit with her in October 2016 but then failed to return the
child to the mother for over four months. During that time,
he took the child out of the state and cut off all contact
between the four-year-old child and the mother. When the
father returned the child on March 1, 2017 (pursuant to a
court order), the child exhibited adverse effects from the
separation. According to the social worker's testimony,
the child "was harming herself, hitting her head,
banging her head on walls, on the floor, and not listening to
mom." Additionally, the mother testified that when Z.S.
first returned, she "wouldn't leave [the
mother's] side, " "was scared to play with
other children, " "would wake up in the middle of
the night having night terrors, " and would
"scream after she went to the restroom searching for
[the mother] thinking [the mother] left her." This
evidence supports the juvenile court's determination Z.S.
suffered harmful effects to her physical, mental, or social
wellbeing while in the father's care.
to section 232.2(6)(f), a child is a CINA when they are
"in need of treatment to cure or alleviate serious
mental illness or disorder, or emotional damage as evidenced
by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or untoward
aggressive behavior toward self or other and whose parent . .
. is unwilling to provide such treatment." After
Z.S.'s return to her mother, Z.S. began seeing a licensed
mental-health counselor who diagnosed Z.S. with adjustment
disorder with disturbance of emotions and conduct. The
counselor recommended Z.S. receive treatment in the form of
parent-child interaction therapy with both parents, but only
Z.S. and the mother engaged in the service. At the CINA
hearing, the father testified he did not believe the
counselor's diagnosis was correct, did not support
Z.S.'s engagement in mental-health treatment, and would
not take any part in the treatment. The father maintained he
could not engage in the therapy because it was against his
religion, but he had not spoken to the counselor about her
methods. At the disposition hearing, the court asked the
father if he would be open to participating in therapy or
counseling that was faith-based through one of his pastors,
and the father initially indicated he would. However, shortly
thereafter, when the father was asked if he agreed with
Z.S.'s current diagnosis, the father testified he did not
agree with it and would "[a]bsolutely not, never"
support efforts to treat Z.S. for that diagnosis. The father
was then asked if there was anything that would change his
opinion on Z.S. getting mental-health treatment, and the
father testified, "You would have to kill me, it's
never going to happen." Based on Z.S.'s actions of
harming herself-"hitting her head, banging her head on
walls, on the floor"-and the father's sworn refusal
to allow Z.S. to participate in treatment, clear and
convincing evidence supports an adjudication pursuant to
section 232.2(6)(f). See In re N.C. , 551 N.W.2d
872, 874 (Iowa 1996) (affirming the adjudication under
subsection (6)(f) when the parents refused to provide the
treatment the experts recommended).
the father argues it is not in Z.S.'s best interests to
remain solely in her mother's care. While the father
maintains the juvenile court should allow the parents to
return to sharing care of Z.S., we cannot agree. The last
time the father had care of Z.S., he left the state with her
and cut off all contact between Z.S. and the mother. Even
after he returned with her, the father has been less than
forthcoming about where he and Z.S. spent their time and what
they were doing while away. During his testimony, the father
indicated he did not believe he had done anything wrong when
he absconded with Z.S. Additionally, after Z.S. returned, she
reported to her mother and a social worker that her father
had used a belt to hit her on her bare buttocks multiple
times during the time they were away. The child reported the
hits resulted in bruises and made it painful to sit. While
the father has the right to use reasonable corporal
punishment, see In re B.B., 598 N.W.2d 312, 315
(Iowa Ct. App. 1999), there are limits to what is proper. The
father has not taken any steps to learn what those limits are
or to ensure he will not use unnecessary force again in the
future. See In re D.B., No. 17-0740, 2017 WL
4317337, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2017) ("Until
the root of the abusive behavior is resolved, all children in
the home remain at risk of imminent harm.").
there is clear and convincing evidence to support the
adjudication of Z.S. pursuant to subsections 232.2(6)(c)(2)
and (6)(f) and it is in Z.S.'s best interests to ...