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Below is a procedural/flow chart provided by the Iowa Department of Human Rights in 2004.

Questions and Answers About Iowa’s Juvenile Justice System | Iowa Legal Aid


Custody Order for Parents with Open CINA Cases | Iowa Legal Aid

Juvenile Court Basics | Iowa Legal Aid

At what point do I need a lawyer?

The simple answer to this question is you should consult with an attorney as soon as you learn of DHS involvement with a child. You may not need to retain the services of an attorney, but it is important to preserve your rights. The best way to preserve your rights is to talk with an attorney and get an understanding of the process you are involved in with the child(ren). Each case is fact specific and a short consultation will educate and empower you to make the best decisions for you and your family.

What is going to happen now that there has been a report made?

Initially reports made to the state of regarding a troubled child are investigation by Child Protective Services. If the Department of Human Services (DHS) believes a resolution of the reported issue can be resolved without beginning a formal CINA case, the DHS can recommend Family Preservation Services.


The state can seek to remove the child from the custody of the parents if the child is in imminent danger of life or health. A child may be removed from the home without a hearing if the judge is presented evidence from a person familiar with the cases that the child is in imminent danger.


The Pretrial Conference is is generally the first appearance in court. The parents are required to be present along with their attorney, if retained. The pretrial conference is the time for parents to tell the court if they will fight the case and demand an adjudicatory hearing.


During the adjudicatory hearing the State must prove to the Court the facts alleged in the petition. The parents then have the chance to present their case through witnesses and exhibits. In a CINA case, there is no right to a jury and the case will be tried before a judge. The judge will determine if the State has met its burden of proof and may adjudicate the children as in need of assistance. If adjudicated, the next step will be the dispositional hearing.


At the dispositional hearing the judge will determine the services to be provided to the family. Services may be recommended by the DHS, County Attorney, Guardian Ad Litem, and parents have the option of requesting services. Ultimately, the judge will decide what services will be provided based upon the best interest of the child.


If the child has been removed from the home, a review hearing will be scheduled every 6 months to review the progress of services, condition of the child, and placement of the child. If the judge determines that the child is out of danger and the issues have been resolved they may order the return of the child to the home or closure of the case. Alternatively, the Judge may order continuation of services or additional services be provided.


Iowa law requires that a child who has been removed from parental custody have a permanent placement plan no later than one year after removal. The plan is established during the permanency hearing. The goal is always reunification with the parents. However, the court may order alternative placement options in the event that reunification is not safe or possible.