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Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) in Iowa
These are the usual steps in a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) Case in Iowa (not all steps happen in every case, and if the judge determines the problem is resolved, the case can be terminated at any stage. The judge can also keep a case open but return the child home with continued services. Reasonable efforts must be undertaken to provide services to assist the parent to keep the child at home. These services include services that the parent and case manager decide are necessary to assist the family. At each hearing, the judge will decide if Reasonable Efforts have been made to reunite the child with his/her family or have been made to establish a permanent placement for the child if the child cannot return home. Note: A new Iowa law effective 7/1/2010, creates a presumption that it is in the best interests of a child 14 years of age and older to attend all hearings and all staff or family meetings related to placement options or services during the pendency of CINA case involving the child. DHS must allow the child to attend all hearings and meetings unless the attorney for the child finds that the child's best interests do not include attendance, and DHS must maintain a written record detailing the reasons for excluding the child and a copy of the written record shall be made available to the child upon the request of the child after reaching the age of majority.
1. Abuse or Neglect Report received by Department of Human Services (DHS)
2. DHS worker conducts assessment/ intake. Assessment must be completed within 20 working days. An assessment may be founded and placed on the central child abuse registry, confirmed but not registered, or unconfirmed.
3. One of the following DHS recommendations usually occurs:
a. The case closed because the child can remain at home safely.
b. The child is allowed to remain in the home, but the case remains open, and community based services are offered to keep the child at home.
c. The child is allowed to remain in the home, but a CINA petition is requested by the County Attorney. Services are offered.
d. The child is removed and placed somewhere (foster home, shelter) until a hearing can be held by the court to decide if the child can be returned home or remain in care. A CINA petition is filed by the County Attorney and services are offered. A child is removed if a juvenile judge is presented evidence by a person familiar with the case that the child is in imminent danger. If family preservation services can alleviate the imminent danger to the child, they must be used before a removal. If only one parent or adult in the home poses a risk to the child, the court can order removing the parent rather than the child.
e. The child is removed and cannot ever return safely to the parents’ home so a permanent home must be found. A court orders the removal of the child from the home.
4. A Removal Hearing is held by the Juvenile Court if the child is removed from the home. This hearing must be within 10 days. The purpose is to determine if the removal must continue or whether the child can return home safely with services and supervision in place.
a. If the judge decides the child cannot return home right now, and the child is 3 years old or younger, the child must be returned home within 6 months or the state may petition for the termination of parental rights.
b. If the child is 4 years old or older and is removed, the child must be returned within 12 months or the state may petition for the termination of parental rights.
5. An Adjudicatory Hearing is held by the Juvenile Court. Must be held within 60 days of the filing of the CINA petition. An adjudicatory hearing is to determine if the facts in the CINA petition are correct. At this hearing the judge determines if the child is in need of assistance. The judge determines where the child will stay:
a. The child could remain in the home with services provided to keep the family together.
b. The child could be returned home with services provided to help the family.
c. The child could be placed with a relative, with services offered to help the return of the child.
d. The child could be placed in a foster home or another placement with return home as the permanency plan.
There are 17 statutory grounds within which a child under the age of 18, can be adjudicated to be a child in need of assistance (Iowa Code section 232.2(6)). These grounds for adjudication include:
a. Whose parent, guardian, or other custodian has abandoned or deserted the child.
b. Whose parent, guardian, other custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides has physically abused or neglected the child, or is imminently likely to abuse or neglect the child.
c. Who has suffered or is imminently likely to suffer harmful effects as a result of either of the following:
(1) Mental injury caused by the acts of the child's parent, guardian, or custodian.
(2) The failure of the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides to exercise a reasonable degree of care in supervising the child.
d. Who has been, or is imminently likely to be, sexually abused by the child's parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides.
e. Who is in need of medical treatment to cure, alleviate, or prevent serious physical injury or illness and whose parent, guardian, or custodian is unwilling or unable to provide such treatment.
f. Who is in need of treatment to cure or alleviate serious mental illness or disorder, or emotional damage as evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or untoward aggressive behavior toward self or others and whose parent, guardian, or custodian is unwilling to provide such treatment.
g. Whose parent, guardian, or custodian fails to exercise a minimal degree of care in supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, or shelter and refuses other means made available to provide such essentials.
h. Who has committed a delinquent act as a result of pressure, guidance, or approval from a parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household in which the child resides.
i. Who has been the subject of or a party to sexual activities for hire or who poses for live display or for photographic or other means of pictorial reproduction or display which is designed to appeal to the prurient interest and is patently offensive; and taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, scientific, political, or artistic value.
j. Who is without a parent, guardian, or other custodian.
k. Whose parent, guardian, or other custodian for good cause desires to be relieved of the child's care and custody.
l. Who for good cause desires to have the child's parents relieved of the child's care and custody.
m. Who is in need of treatment to cure or alleviate chemical dependency and whose parent, guardian, or custodian is unwilling or unable to provide such treatment.
n. Whose parent's or guardian's mental capacity or condition,imprisonment, or drug or alcohol abuse results in the child not receiving adequate care.
o. In whose body there is an illegal drug present as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the acts or omissions of the child, parent, guardian, or custodian. The presence of the drug shall be determined in accordance with a medically relevant test as defined in section 232.73.
p. Whose parent, guardian, or custodian does any of the following: unlawfully manufactures a dangerous substance in the presence of a child, knowingly allows such manufacture by another person in the presence of a child, or in the presence of a child possesses a product containing ephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, salts of optical isomers, or pseudoephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, salts of optical isomers, with the intent to use the product as a precursor or an intermediary to a dangerous substance...
q. Who is a newborn infant whose parent has voluntarily released custody of the child in accordance with chapter 233.
r. Additionally, a new category is being added with a new law passed by the Iowa Legislature and signed by the Governor to include situations where a child has suffered or is imminently likely to suffer harmful effects because a parent, guardian, or custodian, or person responsible for the care of the child, knowingly disseminated or exhibited to the child obscene material as defined in Iowa Code Section 728.1.
6. A Disposition Hearing is held by the Juvenile Court. The dispositional hearing is usually held within 45 days from the date of adjudication, but may be held at the same time as adjudication if all parties agree. The purpose is to determine the child’s custody, placement, and services for up to the next 6 months. The social history and case permanency plan will be presented. The judge often relies on a disposition report developed by DHS. At this hearing, the parents are told what services will be available to them and what the parents need to accomplish before the next hearing. The parents must fully and timely cooperate with services in order to obtain their child back. In the absence of insurance, entitlement programs or other funding sources, Court-Ordered Services funds might be authorized for certain services. If the parents failure to identify a deficiency in services or to request necessary services, this could preclude the parent from challenging the sufficiency of services in a termination proceeding.
Services commonly provided include:
a. Psychological evaluations
c. Parenting classes
d. In-home support services
e. Drug/alcohol treatment
f. Sexual offender programs
g. Domestic violence programs
If the child has been removed, a plan must detail what the parent must do to get the child back. There are basically 2 kinds of disposition:
a. The child remains in the home and parents are required to cooperate with service providers.
b. Child is removed from the parent and the parent required to participate in services to regain custody of the child.
A Contract of Expectations must be developed with DHS if a parent seeks placement of the child with them or to obtain closure of the case. In the Contract, DHS details what the parent must accomplish to reunify with the child.
7. Review Hearings are held by the Juvenile Court within 6 months of the dispositional hearing when a child has been removed. A review hearing must be held if the child was removed from custody. The review includes reviewing progress in keeping the child safe at home or having the child returned to home. Review hearings must be held at least every 12 months after that or more frequently as ordered by the judge.
8. Permanency hearing is held if the child is living outside of the parent’s home. 12 months from the time the child has been out of the home, a hearing must be held to decide the permanent goal for the child and to implement the permanency plan, and reviewed every 6 months thereafter to address reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency plan. Iowa Code section 232.104(1)(a)(1) provides that the initial permanency hearing for a child subject to out-of-home placement shall be held within 12 months of the date that the child was removed from the home. Certain grounds for termination of parental rights show that the term "within 12 months" is a maximum period allowed and not a minimum period of time guaranteed to a parent to gain reunification.
The best interests of the child control the Court's decision in granting a permanency order. In the Interest of N.M., 528 N.W.2d 94,(Iowa 1995). Options include under Iowa Code section 232.104(2):
a. Return home if possible under section 232.102
b. Enter an order pursuant to section 232.102 to continue placement of child for another 6 months at which time the court shall hold a hearing to consider modification of its permanency order.
c. Order the County Attorney to terminate the parent-child relationship. With an Adoption- DHS must report on permanent placement within 45 days and a review hearing is held every 6 months until the adoption is finalized.
d. Enter an order under 232.104(3) to:
1. Transfer guardianship and custody to a suitable person (usually a relative). Under a new law effective 7/1/2010, once guardianship has been placed with a person or agency from a permanency hearing, the juvenile court may now close the case by transferring jurisdiction of the guardianship to the probate court. The juvenile court is required to inform the proposed guardian of the guardian's duties under the Probate Code, including reporting duties under Code Section 633.669. Iowa Code Section 633.675(5) will prohibit the probate court from entering an order terminating a transferred CINA guardianship before the child turns 18 unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child warrant a return of custody to the child's parent.
2. Transfer sole custody of the child from one parent to another parent.
3. Transfer custody to a suitable person for the purpose of long-term care.
4. Order another planned permanent living arrangement if there is a compelling reason that other subparagraphs are not in the child's best interests. This is usually foster care if the judge determines that termination of rights is not in the child's best interests.
prior to an order under 232.104(3), convincing evidence must exist showing the termination of the parent-child relationship is in the best interest of the child, that services were offered to the child's family to correct the situation which led to the child's removal from the home, and that the child cannot be returned to the child's home. If a child cannot be returned home to a parent now or within 6 more months, an order directing the filing of a termination petition must be entered unless the Court is able to articulate why termination of parental rights would not be in the child's best interest.
A judge considering a parent's request for a 6-month continuance in placement of a child following a permanency hearing must constantly bear in mind that, if the plan fails, all extended time must be subtracted from an already shortened life for the child in a better home. In re: A.A.G., 708 N.W.2d 85 (Iowa App. 2005). Termination of parental rights and adoption are the preferred permanency for a child if a child cannot be safely returned home. In Interest of R.I., 541 N.W.2d. 900 (Iowa App. 1995).
9. Termination of the case or parental rights. Termination hearing is held to determine if the parental rights should be ended and the child freed for adoption. Terminating the parental rights means the parent will no longer have future rights concerning the child. The petition may be filed after 6 months of removal for the child under the age of 4, and after 12 months if the child is 4 or older. A petition must be filed if the child has been out of the home for 15 of the last 22 months unless a compelling reason is documented in the case permanency plan. The state may also terminate parental rights sooner when the parent has abandoned the child, the abuse so severe that there is no hope to return the child, when parent is facing long incarceration, and other grounds. The termination hearing may also consider other permanency options for the child. Most cases do not end in termination of rights and the child returns home and the case is terminated.
Certain grounds for termination of parental rights show that the term "within 12 months" is a maximum period allowed and not a minimum period of time guaranteed to a parent to gain reunification. Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(c) provides a ground for termination of parental rights when a child has been removed from the physical custody of a parent for six months, the parents have not maintained significant and meaningful contact, and the parents have made no reasonable efforts toward reunification. Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(h) provides a ground for termination of parental rights if a child is 3 years of age or younger and physical custody has been removed from the parents for six months, yet the child still cannot be returned home.
10. Appeal. DHS, child, or parent may appeal to a higher court. The order in place at the time of the appeal is followed unless the appellate court overturns the order. If an appeal is going to be filed, it must be filed within 15 days of the date on the judge’s final order (Adjudication order or placement of child). Note: all appeals from juvenile court are interlocutory appeals except appeals of the ajudication order and the termination order. Interlocutory appeals are discretionary appeals and the appellate court may or may not decide to hear the case.
Attorneys must also be separately appointed for the termination hearing and for appeal (although the trial counsel is by code to prosecute the appeal unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
A Modification Hearing can take place whenever there are major changes in the case that needs court action.
Concurrent planning may be ordered by the judge so that District Court can determine custody issues concurrently with the juvenile court.
Parents’Rights: In juvenile court, a parent has a right to
1. To an attorney (court appointed if you are considered indigent) (One for each parent in some cases. The child may have an attorney and a Guardian ad Litem (who undertakes an independent investigation to determine what is in the child’s best interests) which you may be required to reimburse).
2. To an interpreter if you do not speak or understand English well
3. To a visit plan for the child unless the court otherwise directs.
4. To speak to a social worker or supervisory staff.
5. To be involved in the development of the case permanency plan and to receive a copy
6. To speak in court
7. To be notified of planning meetings, staffing, court dates
8. To attend appointments for your child with the school, doctors, staffing, court
9. To receive court reports, orders and other reports (if an attorney is involved he/she will obtain the reports and provide them to their client).
10. To make important decisions concerning the child unless guardianship has been ordered to another person or agency.
11. To suggest a relative or other good placement for your child if the child cannot remain in your home.
12. To other rights if the child or you has American Indian or Native American heritage under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).