IN THE INTEREST OF T.F.-M., T.M., G.M., and A.G., Minor Children, F.F., Intervenor, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E.
Seymour, District Associate Judge.
paternal grandmother appeals the juvenile court's order
denying her motion to intervene in pending child-welfare
Magdalena Reese of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer & Reese,
P.C., West Des Moines, (until withdrawal) and Ronald E.
Langford of Langford Law Office, LLC, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anagha Dixit, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Garbis Nolan of Youth Law Center, Des Moines, guardian ad
litem for minor children.
Wolle of the Des Moines Juvenile Public Defender, Des Moines,
attorney for minor child A.G.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
grandmother, Frances, challenges the juvenile court's
order denying her motion to intervene in the child-welfare
cases involving four children: T.F-M, T.M., G.M., and
Although Frances loves these children, her efforts to provide
them a home came long after their removal from parental
custody. In addition, the guardian ad litem (GAL) questioned
Frances's capacity to protect the children given her
unwillingness to accept that her son, Brian, was responsible
for the death of another child and posed a risk of sexually
abusing children. In light of these facts, we find no error
in the juvenile court's denial of the motion to
Facts and Prior Proceedings
grandmother's delay in seeking intervention concerned the
juvenile court. Indeed, it has been two years since the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) opened
child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) cases for A.G., G.M., and
T.M. in June 2017 because of their parents' ongoing
struggles with substance-abuse and mental-health issues. The
CINA disposition occurred in September 2017. The DHS removed
the youngest child, T.F.-M., from the parents' custody in
February 2018, two days after her birth.
month later, the DHS launched its search for kinship
placements, sending out notices to relatives, including
Frances. Frances did not respond. In June 2018, the
children's mother, Sadie, expressed concern the DHS had
not contacted the grandmother. Sadie also told the DHS that
she and Brian considered "signing over
guardianship" to Frances. The DHS worker verified
Frances had received notice of the children's removal;
Frances decided not to get involved because "Brian
wanted to handle this situation as a man." Frances
conveyed a willingness to be a placement for her biological
grandchildren, but not for A.G. because of the child's
assessing whether the grandmother would be a viable placement
option, the DHS worker explored Frances's view of the
family dynamics. Frances reported in the past Brian had been
"a really good dad" and she could not believe
"he would hurt the kids." Despite Brian's
conviction for manslaughter in connection with the October
2000 shaken-baby death of his two-month-old child, Frances
insisted, "Brian did not hurt that baby." Frances
also described Brian's founded child-abuse investigation
as the child's mother "getting even with
Brian," and refused to believe Brian might be selling
drugs to pay for the family's living expenses.
case moved forward without much progress toward reunification
by the parents. The DHS placed T.F-M, T.M., and G.M. in
foster homes where they became integrated into those
families. In July 2018, the State petitioned to
terminate parental rights. That same month, Frances, without
an attorney, asked the court to consider her as a "good
candidate" for care of the children. The court held an
initial hearing on the grandmother's request in August
2018. Without reaching a decision, the court
assured Frances "even the parties [who] have indicated
they don't believe that you should be granted the request