IN THE INTEREST OF T.J.M., Minor Child, S.M.N. and J.N., Intervenors, Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Susan Flaherty,
Associate Juvenile Judge.
appeal the juvenile court decision removing the Iowa
Department of Human Services as the guardian of a child and
placing the child in the guardianship of other relatives.
R. Ramsey-Kacena, Cedar Rapids, for appellants S.M.N. and
J.N. Angela M. Railsback of Railsback Law Office, Cedar
Rapids, for intervenors B.W. and J.W.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
J. Butz of Butz Law Offices, PC, Center Point, guardian ad
litem for minor child.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
S.M.N. and J.N. appeal the juvenile court decision removing
the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) as the guardian
of a child and placing the child in the guardianship of other
relatives. We conclude DHS did not act unreasonably,
irresponsibly, or contrary to the best interests of the child
when it determined the child should be permanently placed in
the home of the maternal aunt. We reverse the juvenile
court's decision removing DHS as the guardian of the
child and placing the child in the guardianship and custody
of the maternal great-uncle.
Background Facts & Proceedings
mother, and T.J., father, are the parents of T.J.M., born in
2013. The mother has another child, S.J.M., who was born in
2014. The children were removed on April 7, 2016, due to the
parents' use of illegal drugs and domestic violence in
the home. T.J.M. was placed with an aunt, Se.M. S.J.M. was
placed with her father, J.S.
April 10, 2016, S.M. gave birth to Z.M.S. The father of
Z.M.S. is W.G. The child was born prematurely and had
extensive medical problems. Z.M.S. tested positive for
methamphetamine at birth and was removed from the
mother's care. Z.M.S. was placed with a maternal aunt,
S.M.N., and her husband, J.N.
informed DHS she did not intend to be a long-term placement
for T.J.M. Initially, S.M.N. stated she did not believe she
could care for T.J.M. due to the extensive care Z.M.S.
needed. The DHS caseworker, Debby Bailey, approached a
maternal great-uncle, B.W., and his wife, J.W.,
stated they could not take T.J.M. immediately because they
were moving. In January 2017, Bailey decided to move T.J.M.
to the home of the maternal great-uncle, based on her belief
T.J.M. and Z.M.S. should be in separate homes so they could
each get more individual attention. Within a few days, the
maternal aunt stated Z.M.S. had improved to the point where
she could also care for T.J.M. Bailey decided not to move
T.J.M. at that time, stating the child's permanent
placement would be determined later. She testified she knew
she did not have the ability to determine the child's
permanent placement and this decision would be made by the
DHS adoption unit.
28, 2017, the juvenile court terminated the parental rights
of S.M., T.J., and W.G. The termination order provided:
That custody and guardianship of the children is placed with
the Department of Human Services for purposes of continued
placement according to the prior orders of this Court and for
preadoptive placement. The Department of Human Services is
ordered to prepare an amended case permanency plan within
thirty days of the date of this order setting out the change
to termination of parental rights and preadoptive placement.
court determined S.J.M. "shall continue in the care and
custody of her father," J.S.
the termination, both the maternal great-uncle and maternal
aunt expressed an interest in adopting T.J.M. The case was
transferred from Bailey to Brianne Arends, who worked in the
DHS adoption unit. Based on Iowa Code section 232.108 (2017)
and DHS guidelines, which state a preference for placing a
child with siblings, Arends determined there needed to be
serious consideration to having T.J.M. and Z.M.S. live in the
same home. A physician stated Z.M.S. should not be exposed to
pet dander and the maternal great-uncle has several pets, so
Z.M.S. did not visit the great-uncle's home. Although
T.J.M. had been spending some time in the maternal ...