IN THE INTEREST OF J.C., Minor Child, B.C., Mother, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Jefferson County, William S.
Owens, Associate Juvenile Judge.
mother challenges the juvenile court's subject matter
jurisdiction to terminate her parental relationship with a
son placed with an out-of-state relative.
J. Brock of Brock Law Office, Washington, for appellant
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
E. M. Lujan of Lloyd, McConnell, Davis & Lujan, LLP,
Washington, guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
mother, Bracie, appeals the termination of her parental
rights to her son, J.C. She contends the juvenile court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the termination
proceedings under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and
Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), enacted as Iowa Code chapter 598B.
Bracie does not otherwise dispute the termination order.
After our independent evaluation,  we conclude the juvenile
court retained jurisdiction over the child, placed with
relatives in Texas, by virtue of the Iowa Interstate Compact
on Placement of Children (ICPC). See Iowa Code
§ 232.158 (2017).
Facts and Prior Proceedings
was born in Iowa in August 2013. The Iowa Department of Human
Services (DHS) became involved with the family in June 2014
after receiving reports Bracie cared for J.C. while under the
influence of methamphetamine. A month later, the State
petitioned to adjudicate J.C. as a child in need of
assistance (CINA). The juvenile court set a hearing for
October 2014 and placed J.C. in the temporary custody of his
maternal great-grandmother, Carol. J.C.'s maternal aunt,
Rikki, lived with Carol and helped with J.C.'s care.
J.C.'s father, Ashton, lived in Bexar County, Texas, and
had not been involved in J.C.'s life. After receiving
notice of the CINA proceedings, Ashton took steps to be an
active parent and expressed a desire to be a placement option
for J.C. Meanwhile, Bracie traveled to Texas and had minimal
contact with the caseworkers assigned to the family.
an October 2014 hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated J.C.
a CINA under Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(c)(2), (g) and (n)
(2014). Bracie appeared through counsel, and
Ashton appeared telephonically. The court determined J.C.
should remain with Carol, but directed the DHS to conduct
paternity testing to open the possibility of placing J.C. in
Ashton's care. The court set a disposition hearing for
November 2014. Before the November hearing, the DHS learned
Carol planned to leave town for several months in early 2015.
Rikki intervened, and the court granted her temporary custody
remained in Rikki's care until April 2015, when the DHS
learned Rikki was involved in the use and distribution of
marijuana from the apartment where she and J.C. were living.
The juvenile court returned J.C. to the custody of DHS so it
could place him in foster care. The next month, the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) completed
and approved the home study requested by the Iowa DHS under
the ICPC so J.C. could be placed in Ashton's care in
Texas. The juvenile court placed J.C. with Ashton in Texas
and ordered the Iowa DHS to monitor the placement through the
ICPC in coordination with the Texas DFPS.
interim, the DHS repeatedly tried to reach Bracie and provide
her services but was unsuccessful. At a December 2015
permanency hearing, both the DHS and J.C.'s guardian ad
litem (GAL) expressed satisfaction with Ashton's care for
J.C. in Texas. The juvenile court continued the placement.
But the juvenile court also granted "[t]he [d]istrict
[c]ourt in Iowa, or its equivalent in the [s]tate of Texas .
. . concurrent jurisdiction to enter appropriate custodial
orders on behalf of the child" per the DHS's
request. The Texas court took no action.
remained with his father until June 2016, when Texas
authorities revoked Ashton's probation and sentenced him
to eighteen months in prison. Ashton entrusted J.C.'s
care to the child's aunt, Ashley, who also resided in
Texas. The Texas DFPS completed an expedited request by the
Iowa DHS for a home study. And in August 2016, the juvenile
court granted Ashley's temporary custody of J.C.
2016 Ashley expressed a desire to become J.C.'s permanent
caretaker. The DHS and GAL believed Ashley was diligent in
meeting J.C.'s needs. Given the successful placement, the
juvenile court modified the permanency goal as
"guardianship to a relative." The juvenile court
further directed Ashley to seek a custodial order in the
Texas courts. The juvenile court reaffirmed these
findings after a March 2017 permanency hearing. At this
point, the DHS did not believe termination of Bracie's
rights was necessary.
2017, Ashley filed a petition in Bexar County, Texas,
requesting the district court appoint her as J.C.'s
"sole managing conservator." In July 2017,
J.C.'s maternal grandmother, Debra, moved to intervene in
the Bexar County proceedings, asking the court to appoint her
as a "non-parent possessory conservator" of J.C.,
"since the mother's supervised access and ...