In the state of Iowa, the Department of Human Services (DHS) investigates cases where a parent or other caregiver is alleged to have committed Denial of Critical Care of a child. Iowa DHS defines Denial of Critical Care as follows:
“Denial of critical care” is defined as the failure on the part of a person responsible for the care of a child to provide for the adequate food, shelter, clothing or other care necessary for the child’s health and welfare when financially able to do so or when offered financial or other reasonable means to do so.
A parent or guardian legitimately practicing religious beliefs who does not provide specified medical treatment for a child for that reason alone shall not be considered abusing the child. However, this does not preclude a court from ordering that medical service be provided to the child where the child’s health requires it.
Denial of critical care includes the following eight sub-categories:
- Failure to provide adequate food and nutrition to such an extent that there is danger of the child suffering injury or death.
- Failure to provide adequate shelter to such an extent that there is danger of the child suffering injury or death.
- Failure to provide adequate clothing to such an extent that there is danger of the child suffering injury or death.
- Failure to provide adequate health care to such an extent that there is danger of the child suffering serious injury or death.
- Failure to provide the mental health care necessary to adequately treat an observable and substantial impairment in the child’s ability to function.
- Gross failure to meet the emotional needs of the child necessary for normal development evidenced by the presence of an observable and substantial impairment in the child’s ability to function within the normal range of performance and behavior.
- Failure to provide proper supervision of a child which a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under similar facts and circumstances, to such an extent that there is danger of the child suffering injury or death.
Note: This definition includes cruel and undue confinement of a child and the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle when the person responsible for the care of the child is driving recklessly or driving while intoxicated with the child in the vehicle.
An Iowa DHS report that accuses a person of denial of critical care can have significant impact on every aspect of a person’s life. Aside from the obvious DHS involvement that can result, there can also be juvenile court action. A person’s custody and visitation rights may be negatively affected, as can their employment in some cases. The County Attorney in Iowa can also file criminal charges in many situations where child abuse or neglect are alleged.
It is a fact that Iowa DHS gets it wrong with depressing regularity. As an attorney who has represented many clients accused of child abuse or neglect by Iowa DHS, I know that their reports are often inaccurate and frequently contain false accusations. The good news is that such DHS reports can be appealed.