IN THE INTEREST OF S.P., Minor Child, D.P., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Butler County, Peter B.
Newell, District Associate Judge.
mother appeals a child-in-need-of-assistance permanency
A. Kuehner of Eggert, Erb, Kuehner & DeBower P.L.C.,
Charles City, for appellant mother.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Elizabeth A. Batey of Vickers Law Office, Greene, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
mother with a long history of methamphetamine abuse appeals a
child-in-need-of-assistance permanency review order
transferring guardianship and custody of her younger child to
the relatives with whom he had been living for two years. She
contends the department of human services (DHS) failed to
make reasonable efforts toward reunification and the district
court should have returned the child to her care.
Background Facts and Proceedings
case was the subject of an appeal from a dispositional order.
See In re S.P., No. 16-1919, 2017 WL
108798, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2017). We provided a
detailed factual narrative in that opinion. See id.
at *1-3. In the main, the mother's two children resisted
exercising visitation with her. Id. at *2. Given
their reluctance to see her, the juvenile court left
visitation in the discretion of the department and denied the
mother's request for court-ordered visitation.
Id. at *3. We held, "The juvenile court
improperly allowed the DHS to give the children veto power
over an essential reunification service." Id.
at *5. We further stated:
The issue before us is not whether teenagers can be forced to
attend a scheduled visitation against their will. Instead,
the pending question is whether the DHS satisfied the
reasonable-efforts requirement when the case manager took no
meaningful steps to set up a visitation plan for these
children. The children's preferences do not relieve the
DHS of its duty to provide reasonable efforts. We conclude
the court erred in finding reasonable efforts were satisfied
when the DHS impermissibly delegated the visitation decision
to the dependent children. To establish reasonable
efforts, the DHS must either present a definitive plan with
the ultimate goal of visitation or make a showing that
visitation is not in the children's best interests.
Id. (emphasis added). We reversed the portion of the
dispositional order finding the department satisfied its
reasonable efforts obligation, and we remanded for further
proceedings consistent with the opinion. Id.
remand, the district court left visits between the mother and
children "at the discretion of the [department" but
ordered the department to "continue to work towards
supervised visits, " "initiate phone calls between
the children and their mother, " "continue to
receive letters from the mother to be provided to the
children, " and "continue to encourage the children
to have visits with their mother." The department
scheduled twice weekly visits, forwarded the mother's
letters to the younger child, and attempted to persuade him
to participate in the visits.
sixteen-year-old child declined to engage with the mother.
The children's therapist opined, "I do not believe
that contact with [the mother] would be harmful to [the
children]. I do believe however that [the children] are both
old enough and mature enough to decide for themselves whether
they want to have contact with [the mother], and I strongly