D.T., In Interest of, 87-1213

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLAVORATO
Citation435 N.W.2d 323
PartiesIn the INTEREST OF D.T., D.T., D.T., D.T., M.T., D.T., and A.T., Children, L.T., Mother, Appellant, State of Iowa, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 87-1213,87-1213
Decision Date25 January 1989

Page 323

435 N.W.2d 323
In the INTEREST OF D.T., D.T., D.T., D.T., M.T., D.T., and A.T., Children,
L.T., Mother, Appellant,
State of Iowa, Appellee.
No. 87-1213.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Jan. 25, 1989.

Ronald A. Baybayan, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen., and Charles K. Phillips, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.


LAVORATO, Justice.

In this child in need of assistance (CHINA) proceeding, the juvenile court adjudicated seven children to be children in need

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of assistance. Following dispositional hearings, the juvenile court ordered that the children's custody continue with the department of human services for placement purposes. The mother, but not the father, appealed. We transferred the case to the court of appeals, which affirmed the underlying CHINA adjudications but ordered the district court to take such further evidence as would be necessary to assure the return of the children to their mother's home. We then granted the State's application for further review. Because we think the juvenile court's dispositional orders were correct in all respects, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals and affirm the orders of the juvenile court.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Daniel and Lanelle are the natural parents of the seven children involved in these proceedings: Diana T., born February 20, 1973; Dawn T., born July 1975; David T., born August 31, 1977; DeAnna T., born July 17, 1979; Michael T., born May 6, 1981; Darrell T., born July 13, 1983; and Alicia T., born January 2, 1986. Lanelle is thirty-five and her husband is thirty-eight.

The record evidence before the juvenile court establishes the following facts.

The family first came to the attention of the department of human services (then known as the department of social services) in 1983, when a child abuse report was filed against the parents. The report centered around the parents' refusal to allow David to receive special education after he was diagnosed as needing such help. Additionally, the report was critical of the home environment, describing it as "unsanitary for the children." It was also critical of Lanelle because she would not let a state homemaker come into the home or have contact with the couple's newborn child.

A second child abuse report was filed in January 1986. This report was based upon extensive unsanitary conditions in the home, a failure to provide adequate food and clothing, and a lack of supervision of and unsafe conditions for the children in general.

The incident leading to the second report involved the birth of Alicia T. The birth occurred at the family home. Problems with the birth occurred, so city fire and police officers were called to the residence. Because of debris, clothing, and garbage cluttering the house, the officers had to clear a path to get to Lanelle in her bedroom. The child abuse investigative unit of the department of human services received a referral from the city because of the condition of the home.

After Alicia's birth, Lanelle and the child were taken to the hospital. The other children were left temporarily in various homes. In their absence approximately twenty-five townspeople cleaned the home. They worked for three days, scrubbing walls with wire brushes and hauling out approximately five truck loads of debris and trash. They made bunk beds for the children and equipped them with mattresses. Furniture was donated for the living room. Because of the debris in the vicinity of the water heater, the home was a veritable fire trap, a condition the fire department had been complaining about for more than a year.

At this juncture D.W. Myers, a child protective social worker, was assigned to the case. He began working in conjunction with Polk County juvenile authorities to improve living conditions in the home. On February 14, 1986, he had his first contact with Lanelle. Lanelle refused to allow Myers into the home. She said she had been visited by an investigative worker on another matter earlier that day and that she was not prepared to deal with two social workers in one day.

Myers opened a case file on the family and contacted the Iowa Children Family Services to initiate homemaker services. Coincidentally, on March 4, Daniel called Myers to request these same services. That day Myers returned to the home. Lanelle was angry with Daniel for bringing Myers into the matter. Nevertheless, Daniel signed an application for the services. This prompted further hostility from Lanelle, who told Daniel to leave the house

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because she had the State and a homemaker there and did not need him.

In March 1986 Lanelle and Daniel, at the insistence of Myers, signed a contract with juvenile authorities, agreeing to a number of conditions to safeguard their children. Among other things, the couple agreed to cooperate with and allow monthly visits from the child protective treatment worker, to allow a public health nurse to visit the home weekly and examine the children, to consider marital counseling, and to keep the home in a safe and sanitary condition. The contract specified that "failure to comply with the agreement may result in further court action."

According to Myers' testimony, the couple failed to abide by the contract in the months that followed. From March through July 23, Myers visited the home about a dozen times. On each visit he found deteriorating conditions in the home.

On July 23 Myers made an unannounced visit. Dirty clothes, food, garbage, and dirt from outdoors covered the floors. The children were generally filthy. The children were allowed to play in the street and in culverts containing raw sewage. Other testimony revealed that the townspeople were so concerned about the children playing in the street that they had installed elevated road bumps to slow motorists. The house was fly-infested, and beds were urine-soaked. Generally, conditions had regressed to what they were prior to the community clean-up of the home. These conditions resulted in a third child abuse referral. The report was based on an allegation of denial of critical care.

The next day, a child protective treatment worker made an unexpected visit to the home to investigate the child abuse report received the day before. Lanelle refused to allow the worker into the home or discuss the report's allegations. She also refused to agree to a future home visit by the worker and ended the conversation by slamming the door in the worker's face.

In early August, Myers and Bert Aunan, a Polk County juvenile court officer, made an unannounced visit to the home. The two found the home in a filthy condition. Lanelle told them the children had head lice. The officers told Lanelle that she had to do some specific tasks to get the home in a livable condition and that they would be back the following week.

True to their word, the officers returned the following week and again on August 22 and August 26. On the last visit, they found the house clean.

On September 14 the authorities received a fourth child abuse report, this time involving the two oldest daughters, Diana and Dawn. An investigation revealed that the father, Daniel, was the perpetrator. Daniel, who had been hospitalized in the past for psychiatric problems, voluntarily committed himself for psychiatric help. Daniel readily admitted the sexual abuse of his two daughters to a psychologist who examined and psychologically tested him.

The child protective treatment worker who had investigated this latest child abuse report recommended that CHINA proceedings be filed on behalf of Diana and Dawn. That was done on September 25. The petitions alleged the two children were children in need of assistance within the meaning of Iowa Code section 232.2(6)(d) (1985) (sexual abuse by parent). Several days later, the juvenile court issued a no contact order, forbidding Daniel from "visiting, seeking, speaking to, communicating with, or being in the immediate vicinity" of his two daughters, or being in their "residential dwelling."

On September 30 Myers again visited the home. Janet Simmons, a homemaker services worker, accompanied Myers. Lanelle was not home. Several of the children were, and they allowed the two into the home.

Myers found that conditions in the home had returned to what they were prior to the visits he and Aunan had made in August. The house was once again fly- and louse-infested; filth covered the floors; the bedrooms were dirty and cluttered; gnats were swarming around the kitchen; and the refrigerator contained rotten food. Myers left Lanelle a message that Simmons

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would serve as a homemaker and that she would return the following week.

The following day Lanelle called Myers and was resistant to homemaker services. Myers informed Aunan of Lanelle's resistance and sought Aunan's help in convincing Lanelle of the necessity for the services. Aunan sent Lanelle a letter to that effect.

On October 7 Simmons went back to the home. In Simmons' view, the house was in worse condition than before. A jar of milk was on the kitchen table. Dead flies and gnats stuck to the top of it. A slop bucket full of garbage was on the kitchen floor. The baby, who by then was crawling, put her hands on the bucket and pulled herself up. Once on her feet the baby put her hands into the bucket and then into her mouth--she was actually eating from the bucket.

In the bathroom, Simmons found feces smeared all over the wall near the light switches. The toilet lid and toilet were also smeared with feces. The bathtub and floor were full of dirty clothes. In the homemaker's words, "it was just outrageous."

The homemaker returned the following week. She found Lanelle outside picking up debris and garbage in the yard. Both went into the home and proceeded to the basement, where Lanelle was doing laundry. A repairman was working on the...

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