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In re T.G.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.G., N.G., A.G., and J.G., Minor Children, C.G., Father, Appellant, D.B., Mother, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Scott Strait, District Associate Judge.

         A father and mother separately appeal the termination of their parental rights. REVERSED AND REMANDED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          J. Joseph Narmi, Council Bluffs, for appellant father.

          Amanda Heims, Council Bluffs, for appellant mother.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Anna T. Stoeffler, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Roberta J. Megel of State Public Defender's Office, Council Bluffs, attorney and guardian ad litem for minor children.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A mother and father had four children together, born in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018. The department of human services intervened after two of the children were hospitalized for failure to thrive. On their discharge, the department initiated in-home services. The parents informed the department that "members of their family are of small stature." The department agreed but found there stature was not inconsistent with malnourishment.

         The State sought and obtained an order temporarily removing the three oldest children from the parents' custody. When the youngest child was born, he too was removed.

         At the adjudicatory hearing, the father again asserted the children's weight and size was a familial trait. He sought genetic testing to confirm his assertion. The mother seconded the request. She also noted her first three children were born prematurely.[1]

         The district court concluded it lacked "the ability to order or require medical staff to undergo" genetic testing "at this point in time." The court encouraged the department to "continue to pursue this avenue of questioning with medical personnel." The children were adjudicated in need of assistance over the parents' objection.

         The parents continued to assert a belief that the children did not suffer from malnutrition but were genetically predisposed to low height and weight. At the parents' behest, the oldest child was evaluated by a gastroenterologist, who substantiated their belief. Following an initial evaluation, he noted the child's "overall body . . . [was] quite similar to that of his father's." He recommended a "full genetic consultation." Testing uncovered "a chromosomal abnormality involving the 18th chromosome." Based on the result, the gastroenterologist confirmed that "the likely cause for [the child's] decreased growth parameters was an underlying genetic problem which extended through numerous family members." He further stated the disparity in the child's "bone age" and chronological age could "only be accounted for on a chromosomal basis, since there appear to be no underlying endocrine abnormalities." He opined that the child would not "benefit from participating in a structured feeding therapy program." The department did not complete genetic testing on the remaining children.

         The State petitioned to terminate parental rights. Following a hearing, the district court granted the petition as to both parents pursuant to Iowa Code section ...


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