Your case may not have all of these professionals, depending upon the specific facts of your case and the needs of the parents and children. Your case may also have individuals not listed here, for the same reason. These are, however, the most common professionals involved in most cases.
The Judge – Iowa has a “one family, one judge” philosophy. That means that barring unusual circumstances, you will have the same judge from the beginning of your case to the end, and you will always be in the same courtroom. If you have been involved in a CINA case before, court administration tries to assign your case to the judge you had previously. The reason for the one-family/one-judge philosophy is that it ensures consistency for the family. It also means that your judge is familiar with your “story,” and what has happened throughout the proceeding.
The Court Reporter – Your hearings will be held in the courtroom, and a written record will be made. The court reporter will take down any testimony, as well as the judge’s comments and orders, and statements made by the attorneys.
There are several different attorneys involved in a juvenile Child In Need Of Assistance (“CINA”) case:
Attorneys for the Parents – Each parent has his or her own attorney. This may be a private pay attorney, or it may be a court-appointed attorney. Regardless, the attorney is to “zealously advocate” on behalf of his or her client. The “attorney-client privilege” means that the attorney cannot reveal things you tell him or her about your case, without your consent.
County Attorney – The County Attorney represents the interests of the State; DHS is typically considered the County Attorney’s client, acting on behalf of the state.
Guardian ad litem – The guardian ad litem (“GAL”) is the attorney for the child(ren). S/he works for the child’s best interests, and will typically visit the child at least once a month.
Attorney for the child(ren) – If your child is older, s/he may have both a guardian ad litem and an attorney. The GAL is an attorney appointed to represent the best interests of the child, while the attorney is to represent the child’s wishes—even if those conflict with what the GAL recommends. Additionally, the attorney is bound by attorney/client privilege, so whatever the child tells him or her is required to be kept confidential.
DHS – The Department of Human Services (“DHS”) provides services and creates the case plan, which determines what the parents must do to have the children returned to his/her home. There are typically multiple DHS workers: one who investigates a report, one who facilitates the removal of the child if necessary, and one who works on an ongoing basis with the family post-removal.
Family Safety Risk and Permanency Services workers – (“FSRP”) – FSRP typically supervise visits, may provide transportation to visits, may help families obtain services, and may provide parenting services. They are not employed by DHS or the state. FSRP workers are typically employed by an outside provider, such as Visiting Nurse Services or Children and Families of Iowa for example.
Family Team Meeting Facilitator – When you have a Family Team Meeting (“FTM”), a facilitator will help ensure the meeting is productive and runs smoothly. Following the meeting, s/he will send out notes from the meeting that reflect agreements and “assignments.”
Court Appointed Special Advocates (“CASA”) – CASAs are trained volunteers who advocate on behalf of your child. Unlike the other professionals in your case, the CASA only works with one family at a time, allowing them to focus exclusively on what your family needs to be successful.
Parent Partners – Parent Partners work through DHS to provide mentoring to parents in juvenile (CINA) court. They have been where the client is now, and successfully reunified with their children.
Therapists – You and/or your children may be asked to do a mental health evaluation. Depending on the results of the evaluation, you may be asked to participate in therapy. The goal is to help you resolve issues that may be preventing you from safely parenting your child.
Substance Abuse Counselors – You may also be asked to do a substance abuse evaluation, attend substance abuse treatment (including meetings such as AA or NA), and submit to scheduled and/or random drug testing. This may include a urine analysis (“UA”), sweat patch, or hair sample.
Domestic Violence Professionals – If you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, you may be assigned a domestic violence advocate that can help you develop a safety plan and provide other information or services to you. If it is determined that you have committed domestic violence, you may be required to attend batterer’s education classes.