When children are involved in a family situation where they could possibly be removed from their home, a special court proceeding is held to find what the child needs to be safe.
A child in need of assistance action, which is handled by the Webster County attorney's office, is started once the Iowa Department of Human Services learns of a child that is not in good living conditions.
"We're usually informed of a situation where juvenile court needs to be involved," said Jordan Brackey, assistant Webster County attorney. "We file a notice of child in need of assistance petition, which brings it before a judge for a hearing on that issue."
Different criteria can lead to a CINA action being filed, including parents who are unavailable or those who are suffering from substance abuse issues.
"There are specifically delineated causes that would lead to a child in need of assistance action," Brackey said. "If it fits the right criteria and the Department of Human Services believes it's appropriate, we will file a motion saying a child needs assistance."
From there, the court works to determine what needs to be done to get the child assistance.
"It can be something like providing advice to the parents or providing respite care, or it can get to the point where the child is removed from the home due to safety concerns," he said. "It's pretty specific on the needs of the child."
Because of that, Brackey said each CINA action is handled depending on what is needed for the child that's involved.
Age is another factor that determines the length of the proceedings.
"We have a permanency timeline that depends on the age of the child," Brackey said. "If a child is young, we have six months, and if they're older we have a year. By the end of that time frame, we want to have some sort of a solution for permanency."
Although the court tries to keep families together, sometimes the child will have to be removed from the home.
"We have children that need to be placed out of the home until they turn 18," Brackey said. "Luckily, that's a rarity."
That decision will only be made if every other option hasn't worked, he said.
"We try to reunify the children with their parents. It's all dependent on the child. Some need out-of-home care and, unfortunately, sometimes we need to terminate parental rights. We want a permanent solution to where we feel the child is safe and doesn't require the services of the Department of Human Services anymore."
Multiple people work together in Webster County to find the best results for the children, Brackey said.
"We're very fortunate in this county in that we have very good Department of Human Services workers and a good juvenile court judge in Judge (Angela) Doyle," Brackey said. "We try to work as best as we can with the other members of the bar to find a good solution for the children."