Guardian ad litem testifies DHS petition unwarranted for 5-year-old

Mother of 5-year-old is suing DHS

Trish Mehaffey
Published: January 30 2014 | 9:49 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:53 am in

A guardian ad litem for a 5-year-old girl who was placed in foster care testified Thursday the child wasn’t in need of assistance, as an Iowa Department of Human Services’ protective worker claimed in 2010.

Dennis McKelvie, a guardian ad litem who represented Izabella Nino in a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) action, said he reviewed documents from a DHS abuse investigation and conducted interviews with Nino’s family members. He found Nino was in a happy and safe environment with her mother Jessica Coronado.

Coronado, formerly of Guernsey who now lives in Texas, is suing Paul LaFauce, a Johnson County DHS child protective worker, for removing her child in November 2009 for more than two weeks was based on a false abuse allegation. The lawsuit claims LaFauce and the agency violated her constitutional rights when Izabella was removed through a “voluntary foster care placement agreement,” signed by the non-custodial father Robert Nino of Marshalltown, and without going through a legal process. Coronado has legal custody of the child.

The civil trial started Tuesday in Johnson County District Court. It is expected to go into next week.

McKelvie said he reviewed DHS documents, written reports from Coronado’s attorney, talked to Coronado and Robert Nino and other family members and reviewed the videotaped Child Protection Center interview conducted after DHS removed the child in 2009, which confirmed no sexual or physical abuse of Izabella.

LaFauce testified earlier that the CINA action was filed by him Jan. 2010 after his assessment was complete and Izabella was taken from a foster home by her mother and her attorney. The CINA was filed because there was an accusation that Izabella was being abused by Coronado’s sister, who lived in the home, he said.

According to Wednesday’s testimony, LaFauce wouldn’t release Izabella from a foster care placement after the abuse allegations were unfounded and not even after Coronado’s attorney got a court order for a hearing regarding the placement.

LaFauce testified today that he was going to release Izabella to her mother the day her mother and attorney came and took the child home against protest from Ruby Aranday, Robert Nino’s sister, who DHS appointed as Izabella’s foster family.

McKelvie said the court dismissed the CINA petition after he recommended it wasn't necessary. He said Izabella wanted to go home when she was in foster care and he found no issues in the home regarding the CINA accusation. Izabella told him she was scared when she was at the foster home and was happy with her mother.

McKelvie said there are only a “handful” of claims where he doesn’t find a CINA is justified.

 

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