WATERLOO — The Iowa Court of Appeals had refused to end the guardianship of the children of a Black Hawk County mother whose infant son suffered an unexplained skull fracture in 2018.
In a ruling last week, the Court of Appeal noted that while the mother has made positive changes in her life, it remains in the best interests of her older children to remain in guardianship.
Court records do not identify those involved, referring to the injured baby as the initials ‘JW’
Two-month-old JW had been left with his father in May 2018 when the mother went to work in May 2018. A few hours later the father called the mother to report that the baby was vomiting blood.
Doctors found the child had a fractured skull, bilateral subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhage. They also found healing fractures in the ribs and femur bone.
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Medical authorities concluded that the infant suffered non-accidental head trauma, but no criminal charges were ever filed.
Both parents denied knowing how the injuries happened, and an investigation by the Iowa Department of Social Services concluded that the father – who had previously served a prison sentence for abusing an 11-month-old child – was likely responsible, according to court records.
A second inquest was launched to investigate an anonymous tip that the mother dropped the carrier and the child fell down the stairs, but the allegation was unfounded, according to court records.
The baby was placed in foster care and then transferred to a relative. His injuries left him blind, cognitively impaired and unable to walk or speak, records show.
Two older children were removed from the home and placed with a relative.
While a hearing to decide whether to terminate parental rights was underway, the mother became pregnant and hid her pregnancy from Department of Social Services officials, giving birth in secret, according to court records. This child was also removed later.
The mother consented to the termination of JW’s rights and agreed to guardianship with the parent for the two older children.
In 2021, the mother has made progress, retaining custody of her youngest child and seeking to end guardianship of the two eldest. At least one of the older children wanted to stay with the parent and testified at a hearing on the matter.
The mother then “misfriended” that child on Facebook and cut off all contact with the two older children, prompting the district court to rule against her request to end the guardianship.
The judge found that the children were thriving under the parent and that the blocking of Facebook appeared to be retaliation.