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In re B.N.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 9, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF B.N. and I.N., Minor Children, A.N., Father, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Eric J. Nelson, District Associate Judge.

         A father appeals the adjudication of his two daughters as children in need of assistance.

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

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and May, JJ.

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A father, Alex, appeals the juvenile court's adjudication of his two daughters, six-year-old I.N. and two-year-old B.N., as children in need of assistance (CINA). Alex contends the court mistakenly excluded exhibits he offered at the hearing. He also argues the State failed to present clear and convincing evidence to prove the elements of Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(b), (c)(2), or (n) (2019). Because the evidentiary rulings were not prejudicial and the record contains sufficient proof of the grounds for CINA adjudication, we affirm.[1]

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         This case started with a contentious incident in late March 2019 when I.N. and B.N. had weekend visitation with their father. On Saturday night, B.N.'s mother, Deven, received a series of text messages from Alex that made her worry for her daughter's safety. Deven called I.N.'s mother, McKayla. And together they went to Alex's house after midnight to investigate. They knocked on his door but received no answer. Then, through the basement window, they saw Alex's girlfriend, Melissa, strike him in the face. Concerned about their children, Deven and McKayla entered Alex's home without permission using a spare key Deven still had. They found B.N. awake upstairs. Meanwhile, Alex and Melissa were drinking alcohol in the basement. Using her cell phone, one of the mothers recorded a video purporting to show that Alex and Melissa were intoxicated.

         The following Monday, April 1, McKayla reported the incident to child protection intake at the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). A few days later, a child protection worker launched an investigation. Alex refused the investigator's request for a "walk-through" of his home. She also offered him referrals to obtain chemical-dependency and mental-health evaluations. He declined.

         The investigator did "walk-throughs" at the homes of McKayla and Deven- spotting no concerns. She then interviewed I.N. The six-year-old told the investigator she did not feel safe at her father's house because he drinks alcohol "that looks like water." I.N. reported many times during visitation she has tried to wake up her father after he has been drinking, but he does not respond. When her father won't get up, I.N. has been left to care for her two-year-old sister. I.N. recalled changing diapers, getting B.N. dressed, and finding food for them to eat. The juvenile court summarized I.N.'s revelations:

She said she can smell alcohol on his breath and she does not like it when he is drunk because he is easily angered. [I.N.] reported that when her dad gets mad when he is drinking, his face turns red and he cl[e]nches his fists. Also, when he becomes angry, he slams cabinets, hits walls, and has hit her on her neck with a sock. [I.N.] said her father also screams in her face when he is drinking.

         In mid-April, the State filed a petition alleging I.N. and B.N. were CINA. Alex did not cooperate with the DHS requests for drug testing. He told the DHS investigator that child-support and child-custody ...


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