IN THE INTEREST OF I.P., Minor Child, B.C. and B.C., Intervenors, Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Barbara H.
Liesveld, District Associate Judge.
parent intervenors appeal the juvenile court order denying
their motion to remove the Iowa Department of Human Services
M. Railsback of Railsback Law Office, Cedar Rapids, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kathryn K. Lang, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Kimberly A. Opatz of Linn County Advocate, Inc., Cedar
Rapids, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor child.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
this case, there is not one, but two, homes that want to be
[the child's] forever home." That is how the
juvenile court described the tug-of-war over one-year-old
I.P. in its order denying a motion by the foster parents to
remove the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) as her
guardian. The motion followed termination of I.P.'s
biological mother and father's parental rights. The
foster parents, Brad and Bobbi, intervened in I.P.'s case
and challenged the DHS decision to move I.P. to the home of
Richard and Patricia, the adoptive parents of I.P.'s
half-sister. Brad and Bobbi allege the DHS acted unreasonably
in not sending timely relative notices and the new case
permanency plan is not in I.P.'s best interests.
our independent review of the record,  we reach the same
conclusion as the juvenile court: "the DHS has not
failed in its guardianship duties or in looking out for
[I.P.]'s best interests." Thus, we affirm.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
never lived with her biological parents, Joshua and Haley.
She tested positive for illicit drugs at her birth in October
2017. The DHS removed the newborn from parental care and
placed her with foster parent Sandy. Sandy relied on Brad and
Bobbi to provide respite care for I.P. So, according to the
DHS, when the agency placed I.P. in the home of Brad and
Bobbi in early April 2018, the transition was
"seamless." The DHS considered Brad and Bobbi as
prospective adoptive parents. And I.P. thrived in their care,
according to reports from the guardian ad litem (GAL).
before the termination hearing for Joshua and Haley in May
2018, the DHS case worker realized she had not complied with
the notice requirements of Iowa Code section 232.84
(2018). Upon investigating, the DHS discovered
Haley's older biological daughter, J.D., had been adopted
by Richard and Patricia. J.D., who is I.P.'s half-sister,
was then eight years old. Richard and Patricia did not have
ongoing contact with Haley and did not know about I.P.'s
birth. The case worker testified she told Brad and Bobbi at a
pretrial conference that she was belatedly sending out the
relative notices. The relative notices in the record were
dated June 27, 2018.
they learned of I.P.'s situation, Richard and Patricia
asked for visitation, which began in mid-July 2018. In that
same time frame, the juvenile court issued its order
terminating the parental rights of Joshua and Haley. After
the termination, Brad and Bobbi moved to intervene. They
asserted: "It was shocking to them to now be told out of
the blue that another half-sibling is in Davenport, and that
this family is interested in being a placement option for
[I.P.]." The foster parents also asked the court to
remove the DHS as I.P.'s guardian.
juvenile court granted the motion to intervene in August
2018. Meanwhile, the DHS completed a home study for Richard
and Patricia; the study recommended I.P. transition to their
home "with the intention of this becoming a pre-adoptive
placement." The juvenile court allowed I.P. to remain
with Brad and Bobbi until it heard evidence on their motion
to remove the DHS as guardian. The court heard that motion
across three days in late November 2018 and late January
April 2019, the court denied the motion to remove the DHS as
guardian. Before reaching its conclusion, the court found the
DHS acted unreasonably in failing to timely contact
I.P.'s relatives: "Had DHS done its due diligence at
or near the beginning of this case, as required by law,
[Richard and Patricia] would have received notice well before
[I.P.] was ever placed with [Brad and Bobbi]." The court
determined the DHS's failure "led to increased
trauma to [I.P.] and a delay of permanency," as well as
"avoidable heartache" for both sets of parents. But