Two lawsuits were filed recently alleging parental rights violations committed by the Iowa Dept. of Human Services (DHS).
The DHS is removing children from their homes and placing them into foster care upon written agreements signed by one parent.
Many of those parents are not the children’s legal guardians. Children are being removed from mothers, fathers, and other legal custodians on the signed voluntary agreement of a parent who has no custodial rights over the child.
Case of Jessica Wilber – Non-Custodial Father Signs Off.
Jessica Wilber filed a lawsuit to get her 8-year-old daughter back from foster care. The child’s father alleged Wilber was abusing their child. Even though he was not the custodial parent, the father signed a voluntary placement agreement to put his daughter in foster care.
Wilber was the custodial parent; allegations of child abuse were determined to be unfounded; and DHS removed the child from her home and placed her in foster care on the consent of the non-custodial father.
Case of Lance Brown – Non-Custodial Mother Signs Off.
An Iowa child may be removed from the custodial parent’s care even when allegations of abuse are falsely lodged by a disgruntled or hostile non-custodial parent.
That’s essentially what happened to Lance Brown. The father was granted legal custody of his two children in a contested divorce from the children’s mother, Tiffany Koder. Without notice to Brown, Koder signed a voluntary “safety plan” with a DHS worker. The plan stopped Brown from being in contact with the children he was legal guardian of. With no indicia of abuse found by hospital or DHS workers, one child was still placed in foster care. Almost three months later, the children were finally returned to their dad.
Should Parents Have to Prove to DHS Their Home Is Safe?
According to Iowa attorney Natalie Cronk who represents Wilbur and Brown against DHS, “there has been this burden-shifting going on in Iowa that requires the parent or guardian to prove their house is safe, but not really defining what safety is.” As Cronk points out, the welfare system strives to keep children safe in their own homes. In addition to damages for both Wilbur and Brown, Cronk seeks an order prohibiting DHS from taking a child into custody through voluntary agreements with non-custodial parents.