IN THE INTEREST OF V.L., Minor Child, L.O., Intervenor, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joseph W.
Seidlin, District Associate Judge.
temporary custodian appeals a joint permanency and
termination order transferring custody and guardianship of
her niece to the department of human services. The State
moved to dismiss. MOTION TO DISMISS OVERRULED; JUDGMENT
Steinbach of McEnroe, Gotsdiner, Brewer, Steinbach &
Rothman, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant intervenor.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Stratton of Juvenile Public Defender Office, Des Moines,
guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
more than a year, V.L. lived with her great aunt
Linda. The State recruited Linda as a temporary
custodian after removing V.L. from her mother's care. By
all accounts, both Linda and V.L. enjoyed their time
together. In Linda's words: "I know I brought a lot
to her life, but on the other hand, she's brought a lot
to my life." The child's guardian ad litem described
V.L.'s influence on Linda as "an Indian
summer"-brightening the great aunt's life.
lauding the "love and care" Linda provided V.L.,
the juvenile court transferred V.L.'s custody and
guardianship to the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS)
following a joint permanency and
termination-of-parental-rights (TPR) hearing. Linda now seeks
reversal of that transfer order. Pointing to their strong
bond, Linda argues remaining in her custody serves V.L.'s
best interests. As a sub-issue, Linda complains the juvenile
court failed to consider her medical-records exhibit to rebut
the DHS claim that her health conditions limited her ability
to provide long-term care for V.L. Linda also contests the
juvenile court's denial of her motion for new trial
alleging newly discovered evidence. The motion flagged a
recently completed home study recommending Linda as an
adoptive parent for V.L., who turned three in August.
first order of business, we must address the State's
motion to dismiss. The State insists Linda intervened only in
the child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) case and the
permanency order she now challenges is not a final appealable
order. The State also contends the termination order rendered
moot any issues from the CINA permanency proceedings.
reasons outlined below, we decline to dismiss the appeal as
interlocutory. But after our independent review of the facts
and law, we affirm the juvenile court's order
transferring V.L.'s guardianship and custody to the DHS
under Iowa Code section 232.117(3)(a) (2017).
Facts and Prior Proceedings
was not yet two years old when the DHS removed her from the
care of her mother Jamie, who was using crack cocaine. In May
2017, Linda agreed to be V.L.'s temporary custodian.
Linda had also raised Jamie and her siblings when the State
removed them from their parents. Although she did not adopt
them, she served as their legal guardian.
record contains conflicting information about Linda's
initial willingness to adopt V.L. The DHS worker testified
that at the time of removal, Linda expressed reservations
about being the "concurrent plan" if V.L. could not
reunify with Jamie but agreed to temporary custody to
"help Jamie out." By contrast, Linda testified:
"I said from day one I would adopt her."
their daughter's removal, Jamie did not meet DHS
expectations and V.L.'s father had little involvement in
the CINA proceedings. In early December 2017, the juvenile
court issued a CINA review order, noting DHS had decided
Linda was "not a concurrent plan for the child."
The court expected "to hear evidence regarding long-term
placement of the child" at a permanency hearing in
February 2018. A few days later, the State petitioned to
terminate the parents' rights. The State's petition
noted V.L. was currently in Linda's custody under DHS
supervision. See Iowa Code § 232.111(4)(b)(3).
In response, the juvenile court set a date for a joint
permanency and termination hearing, directing Linda be served
notice in accordance with the "statutory
guidelines." See Iowa Code § 232.112(1)
(listing "necessary parties" in termination case).
late December 2017, Linda moved to intervene in the CINA
case, seeking permanent custody of V.L. The juvenile court
granted her motion to intervene despite resistance from the
State and guardian ad litem (GAL).
appeared with her attorney at the joint permanency and
termination hearings in April and May 2018. By that time,
V.L. had been in Linda's care for almost one year. Linda,
who was then sixty-two years old, testified she wanted to be
V.L.'s long-term caretaker and felt physically able to do
so. The State and GAL questioned Linda at length about her
health conditions-which included fused disks in her back,
diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
bursitis in her hip, and chronic depression and
caseworker testified that she was not recommending Linda as
the long-term placement for V.L. based largely on concerns
she would not be physically able to care for the
child. The caseworker instead recommended V.L. be
placed with a ...