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Courts Rediscover Mother's Rights

July 10, 2010 permalink

When a woman is battered by her husband, child protectors take her children claiming either that she failed to protect (by beating up her husband?) or that the children were harmed by witnessing the abuse. When appellate courts have dealt with the claim, famously as Nicholson vs Scoppetta in New York City, they have ruled in favor of the mother. The Iowa Supreme Court has just made the same decision for mother "Jane Doe", removing her name from the child abuse registry. Child protectors covet children so much that they use spurious reasons such as this, and many more mothers will lose their children as other jurisdictions reinvent this nonsensical theory.



Supreme Court: Agency had no authority to place woman on child abuser list

An Iowa City woman placed on a state registry of known child abusers was vindicated Friday when the state’s highest court ruled that the Iowa Department of Human Services over-stepped its authority and erred while interpreting legislative intent.

The woman, who is only listed as “Jane Doe” in court documents, was accused of committing child abuse by denying her child critical care in 2001 and 2002. According to court documents, the child was repeatedly exposed to his/her father, who had been a perpetrator of numerous incidents of domestic abuse against the woman.

The Iowa Department of Human Services’ final decision, which was later affirmed by the district court, found that the woman had committed child abuse and that her name should be placed on the central child abuse registry.

On appeal, counsel for the woman argued substantial evidence did not support the finding of child abuse, the legislature did not authorize DHS to to place her name on the registry, and that DHS’s practice of holding domestic violence victims responsible for the actions of their perpetrators is against public policy. The court agreed that the legislature did not authorize DHS official to place the woman’s name on the registry, and did not consider the other arguments.

The opinion, which was authored by Justice David S. Wiggins, delves into the history and legislative intent of state law encompassing child abuse and the state registry. It notes that prior to 1997 the legislature require DHS to place all confirmed reports of child abuse on the registry, but later launched a assessment-based approach to determine if “the child suffered significant injury or was placed in great risk of injury” and those matched the criteria were placed on the registry.

Effective July 1, 1998, the legislature expanded the assessment-based approach by adopting a new section of the Iowa code and provided a criteria for placement of information on the registry if there was a finding of child abuse. When the criteria was put in place, members of the legislature omitted the determination of “failure to provide for the proper supervision of the child” from the list of items deemed as qualifiers for placement on the registry.

“The legislature may express its intent by the omission, as well as the inclusion of terms,” wrote Wiggins.

We conclude when the legislature failed to list “failure to provide for the proper supervision of the child” in section 232.71D(3)(f) as a ground for placement of a person’s name on the registry, the legislature intended that DHS shall not place a person on the child abuse registry who has failed to provide for the proper supervision of his or her child. Accordingly, DHS’s interpretation of Iowa Code section 232.71D in rule 441—175.39, requiring that all “confirmed abuse shall be placed on the registry unless all three conditions are met” is irrational, illogical, and wholly unjustifiable because DHS’s interpretation extends, enlarges, and otherwise changes the legislative intent of section 232.71D.

The court reversed the earlier decisions and indicated that DHS should remove the woman’s name from the registry as well as purge any record that her name ever appeared there.

Source: Iowa Independent