IN THE INTEREST OF A.W. and B.W., Minor Children, JENNIFER OLSEN, Guardian ad Litem, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Phillip J.
Tabor, District Associate Judge.
guardian ad litem appeals from the juvenile court's
denial of the petition to modify the dispositional order and
dismissal of the child-in-need-of-assistance adjudication.
Jennifer Triner Olsen of Olsen Law Firm, Davenport, appellant
and guardian ad litem for minor children.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.
Tabor, J., takes no part.
POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.
guardian ad litem (GAL) for A.W. and B.W., the minor children
at issue, appeals the juvenile court's denial of the
petition to modify the dispositional order and dismissal of
the children-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) adjudication.
and B.W. were born in 2011 and 2013, respectively. They were
initially removed from the mother's care in November
2016, which occurred after the mother's then-boyfriend,
Eddie, physically abused B.W., leaving bruises on B.W.'s
face, chest, and shoulders. Additionally, both A.W. and B.W.
tested positive for THC. Soon thereafter, both children were
adjudicated CINA pursuant to Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b),
(c)(1), (c)(2), (n), and (o) (2016); the court found
"that the children were living with their mother where
there were substance abuse and domestic violence issues and
the children were not safe." The children were placed
together in relative care.
the children were out of her care the first time, from
November 2016 through late July 2017, the mother participated
in individual mental-health counseling and engaged in classes
to address her history of being and staying in relationships
with incidences of domestic violence. The mother was able to
recognize the history of abuse in her romantic relationships.
But she also continued to speak with and see Eddie, and-after
asking the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) and being
recommended not to-she chose to have the no-contact order
lifted on another former paramour, Michael, who had assaulted
her. The mother seemed to recognize B.W.'s well-founded
fear of Eddie, but that did not stop her from having B.W.
speak to Eddie on the phone.
children were returned to the mother's custody in late
July 2017 and remained in it until mid-October 2017. During
this time, the mother began dating another man, Tyler, with
an extensive criminal past. She was told he could not be
around the children, but the mother ignored DHS's
directive. DHS then became concerned the mother had moved
Tyler into the home with her and the children; when
confronted, the mother agreed to voluntarily place A.W. and
B.W. back into the relatives' care. The voluntary
placement became court ordered at a later review hearing.
the second removal, the children remained outside of the
mother's care from October 2017 until mid-December 2018.
Early in this period, the mother began a new romantic
relationship, this time with Zach. The GAL expressed concerns
that the mother chose to involve herself in another
relationship, noting she had been encouraged to focus on just
herself and her children but seemed unable to do so. DHS
expressed concerns that Zach had some criminal history
involving marijuana. The mother was told her new boyfriend
could not be around the children, and again, the mother
disregarded DHS's directive. Additionally, although the
mother paid lip service to "taking things slow"
with Zach, in February 2018, she reported on Facebook that
she and Zach were engaged to be married.
March 2018, DHS determined Zach was an appropriate person to
be around the children; he completed a number of negative
drug tests and engaged in services with the children and
mother. Although there were setbacks-the mother and Zach both
tested positive for THC in summer 2018-A.W. and B.W. were
returned to the mother's home-where Zach also lived-on
December 14, 2018.
on February 3, 2019, the county attorney filed a motion
asking the court to modify the current dispositional order to
remove the children from the mother's care once again. At
the hearing on the motion, the GAL joined the county
attorney's request, but DHS resisted. According to the
mother's initial reports, Zach came home very intoxicated
on New Year's Eve and the mother and Zach got into a
verbal altercation, which then became physical, with Zach
choking, hitting, pushing, and scratching the mother. After
Zach calmed down, the mother woke up A.W. and B.W., and she
and the children left the home and spent the night elsewhere.
Within a day or two, the mother reported the incident to her
therapist and appropriate DHS professionals. She showed DHS
the marks left on her body from the incident and stated she
was going to obtain a no-contact order against Zach. She also
told DHS that she made Zach move out of the home, their
relationship was over, and she would not be seeing or
speaking to him. DHS explicitly told the mother she could not
have Zach in the home or around the children until further
investigation and steps were taken; she agreed. The mother
did not get a no-contact order and, within a couple weeks,
she allowed Zach into her home while the children were
present. At the hearing on the motion, on February 28, 2019,
the mother minimized the New Year's Eve attack; whereas
she initially described being choked, she now said Zach had
just "restrained" her and "wrapped [her] in a
bear hug." She claimed the scratches she had previously
shown DHS came from her dog. She also indicated she planned
to continue her relationship with Zach. The social worker
testified DHS was recommending leaving the children in the
mother's care because "these kids are very bonded to
their mother" and they "have a routine."
the presentation of evidence, the county attorney asked the
court to remove the children from ...