Child in Need of
Iowa there are 16 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). The most commonly used grounds for adjudication are the provisions
defining physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. However, there are several
other grounds for adjudication including that the child has tested positive for
an illegal substance due to the acts or omissions of the child's parent or
caretaker; the child suffers from a severe mental illness for which the parents
are not able to provide treatment; or, the parent is unable to provide adequate
food, clothing or shelter to the child.
At the adjudication
hearing, the state is required to prove that the child is in fact a child in
need of assistance within the meaning of one or more of the 16 CINA statutory
grounds. The state, which is represented by the county attorney, is often
opposed in these cases by the child's parent(s). However, parents are sometimes
in agreement that their child is in need of services or out-of-home placement.
In virtually all CINA proceedings, the parents are provided an attorney at
state expense if they cannot afford one. Additionally, the child is provided a
guardian ad litem to represent the child's interests in all CINA proceedings.
(The term guardian ad litem basically means that the attorney not only represents
the stated wishes of the child, but also undertakes an independent
investigation to determine what is in the child's best interests.) In some
cases, a child is represented by an attorney as well as a guardian ad litem.
prior to the time of the adjudication hearing, the state can seek to remove the
children from the custody of their parents if the children are in imminent danger
to their lives or health. A juvenile judge may remove children from their home
without a hearing if the judge is presented evidence by a person familiar with
the cases that the children are in imminent danger. If children are removed
without a hearing, a hearing must be held within 10 days after the children's
removal. The court's first effort must always be to attempt to keep families
together if this can be done safely, without exposing the child to harm. Iowa
has family preservation services in all parts of the state. Family presentation
consists of short-term intensive services designed to get families through
periods of crisis. If family preservation services would alleviate the imminent
danger to children, they must be used before a removal. Additionally, Iowa law
provides that if only one parent or adult in the home poses a risk to the
children, then the court can enter an order removing the parent/adult from the
home rather than the children.
After the adjudication
hearing (and possibly the removal hearing), the judge will next hold a
disposition hearing. At disposition, the judge determines what services should
be provided to the parent(s) to help them overcome whatever problems led to the
need for adjudication, and what services should be provided to the child(ren).
Often, the judge relies on a disposition report developed by social service
professionals. If the child(ren) have been removed from the parent, a plan is
set out that details what the parent must do to get custody of the child(ren)
As is described in the
preceding paragraph, there are basically two kinds of dispositions: 1) the
child remains in the home of the child's parent(s) and the parent(s) are
required to cooperate with service providers: and, (2) the child is removed
from the parent and the parent is required to participate in services to
demonstrate whether they can regain custody of the child. Typically, the child
is also receiving services.
Services most commonly
provided for parents would include the following: psychological evaluations,
therapy, parenting classes, in-home support services, drug/alcohol treatment
and sexual offender programs.
CINA cases, in which the child has been removed from the home, come on for
review hearings before the juvenile judge every six months. At a review
hearing, the judge will review the progress of the parents, the condition of
the child, and the placement of the child if the child was removed from her
For a child who has been
removed from her parent's custody, the Iowa Code provides that a permanent
placement plan for the child should be developed no later than one year after
the child was removed. After the child has been out of home for one year, a
permanency hearing is to be held at which time the permanent plan is supposed
to be instituted. If possible, the child should be returned to her parent(s) by
the time of the permanency hearing. However, if the parent(s) are not a safe
option, other permanent plans must be made. Most commonly, if the child cannot
be returned home, a termination of parent rights will occur so that the child
can be freed for adoption. Guardianship with a caretaker can be ordered, which
most often occurs when the child is placed with a relative. Occasionally, a
juvenile judge will order continued foster care; however, the judge can make
such an order only if the judge finds that a termination of parental rights is
not in the child's best interests.
of Parental Rights
A juvenile judge may enter
an order terminating a parent's parental rights. Such an order permanently ends
the parent's legal relationship to the child, and frees the child for adoption.
The most common ground for termination of parental rights in Iowa is that the
child has been placed in foster care for a period of time and the parent is
still unable to safely care for the child. In Iowa, if a child three years of
age or younger has been in foster care for six months or more, the state may
file a petition to terminate the parent's parental rights. If a child is four
years of age or older, the state may seek a termination of parental rights
after the child has been in foster care for 12 months or more. There are
certain instances when the state may seek to terminate parental rights even
sooner such as when a parent has abandoned the child; when the abuse has been
so severe that there is no hope to return the child to the parent; when the
parent is facing long term incarceration; as well as other grounds. However,
generally children wait much longer than 12 months to have permanency and a
Parent's Juvenile Court Handbook
This handbook was written
to help you understand court proceedings for a child in need of assistance,
including whom the people are that you will meet and what is likely to happen.
You may have questions that this book does not answer. Your lawyer or social
worker can help. Please ask.