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In re M.T.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 7, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF M.T., Minor Child, B.M., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Keokuk County, Daniel Kitchen, District Associate Judge.

         A mother appeals the juvenile court orders adjudicating the child as in need of assistance and placing the child outside her home.

          Katie Mitchell of Mitchell Law Office, PLC, Washington, for appellant mother.

          Amber L. Thompson, Sigourney, for father.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Katie E.M. Lujan of Lloyd, McConnell, Davis & Lujan, L.L.P., Washington, guardian ad litem for minor child.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE

         A mother seeks reversal or modification of juvenile court orders adjudicating her child as in need of assistance (CINA) and removing the child from the mother's care. We conclude the evidence supports the CINA adjudication and we affirm the dispositional order of the juvenile court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         B.M., mother, and Ma.T., father, are the parents of M.T., born in 2009. B.M. is married to R.M., and they have a child together, L.M. M.T. resided with the mother B.M. and R.M., the stepfather.

         On or about November 1, 2017, M.T. sustained injuries on the right ear and neck which the child described as cuts. However, medical personnel later determined the injuries could be burns, but they were not cuts. M.T. attributed the injuries to intentional actions by the stepfather with a "shiny object." The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) investigated the reported injury on November 4 and removed the child from the home. The child was placed with the father, and the court ordered visitation with the mother and a no-contact order with the stepfather.

         DHS filed a "founded" child-abuse assessment in December, concluding the stepfather was responsible for physical abuse to M.T. The mother continued to live with the stepfather, and denied he caused any harm to M.T. The mother and stepfather did not provide a credible alternate explanation for the injuries to M.T.'s ear and neck. The stepfather sometimes acted in a hostile manner toward law enforcement, DHS, and Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency (FSRP) workers- sending accusatory text messages, taking pictures of the workers and their vehicles, forbidding access to the house at times, and monitoring the time and place of visitations between the mother and the child. Throughout the proceedings, the mother and stepfather exhibited a volatile relationship; for example, splitting up in February, getting back together in March, calling in law enforcement during fights in April, and discussing no-contact orders one day and driving together for visitation the next.

         On April 26, 2018, the court adjudicated M.T. as a CINA pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b) and (c)(2) (2017). The following weekend, the mother called law enforcement multiple times about the stepfather's mental-health issues and threatening behaviors, including suicide attempts, locking himself in with the younger child, and chasing the mother and L.M. down the street. The mother continued to stay with and support the stepfather, though he did not comply with any of the recommendations necessary for the mother to regain custody of M.T. In July, the stepfather came to the house where he knew the mother was having visitation with M.T. The mother kept the stepfather away from the child, but he took ...


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