IN THE INTEREST OF W.L. and E.L., Minor Children, C.W. and D.C., Intervenors, Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas J.
Straka, Associate Juvenile Judge.
appeal the denial of their petition to remove the Iowa
Department of Human Services as guardian of two children who
were removed from their care.
Stephanie R. Fueger of O'Connor & Thomas, P.C.,
Dubuque, for appellants.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
R. McCartney of Reynolds & Kenline, Dubuque, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
appeal raises questions about the placement of E.L. and W.L.
after the juvenile court terminated the rights of
their biological parents. Craig and his husband, Dwight,
challenge the denial of their motion to remove the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) as the children's
guardian. Intervenors Craig and Dwight argue the DHS acted
unreasonably and not in the children's best interests by
removing the children from their care over concerns about
inadequate supervision. The juvenile court agreed the DHS
acted unreasonably but decided disrupting the children's
current pre-adoptive placement was not in their best
interests. After giving the record fresh consideration,
Facts and Prior Proceedings
children involved in this appeal are E.L., born in 2014, and
W.L., born in 2015. Their parents' drug use and
incarceration led to DHS removing the children from their
home. After a brief placement with their paternal
grandmother, the children moved in with relatives, Craig and
Dwight, who are also licensed foster parents, in December
2017. The couple also cared for another set of three
siblings, who were cousins to E.L. and W.L. In addition,
Craig's ten-year-old biological daughter, K.W., lived
with them-making it a household with six children.
and Dwight run a dairy farm. Dwight handles most of the farm
operation, and Craig concentrates on the home-cooking,
cleaning, and caring for the children. The couple planned to
adopt all the children in their care.
April 2018, the juvenile court terminated the rights of the
biological parents of W.L. and E.L. and appointed the DHS as
the children's guardian. Placement with Craig and Dwight
continued, but the DHS did not move to appoint the couple as
guardians. Before this time, everyone involved in the
child-welfare case reported E.L. and W.L. were doing well
Craig and Dwight's care.
arose in June 2018 when Cheri Alun, a provider of Behavioral
Health Intervention Services, visited the residence and
observed the children, including K.W., seemingly unsupervised
in the yard. She saw one older child running a trimmer and
another mowing with a lawn tractor; both children were around
nine or ten years old. Three younger children were nearby. In
search of an adult, Alun knocked on the front door and
received no response; she went to the back door and also
received no response. When she returned to the front door,
Craig answered. He had not been able to immediately answer
the door because he was upstairs helping another child, who
was sick. Alun estimated the response took about five
that incident, the DHS removed all five foster
children from the home, citing a lack of proper
supervision. The DHS placed the children temporarily with a
foster family, then with their paternal uncle, Joe, and ...