CHARLES CITY | A court ruling in which a deaf woman lost parental rights to her infant child has been reversed by the Iowa Court of Appeals and remanded back to Floyd County District Court.
The mother, who was not identified in court papers, gave birth to a son in 2014. After giving birth, the mother showed signs of depression and suicide. The hospital evaluated her and determined she was not a danger to herself or her child and released her, but contacted public service agencies to evaluate and assist her.
Court documents say the Department of Human Services worked with the mother and knew of her hearing impairment and that she used sign language. The department did not get a sign-language interpreter but instead relied on communicating with her in writing, according to court documents.
When the child was 1 month old, the state filed a “need of assistance” petition, alleging the mother was “deaf and mute and communication is difficult” and that the mother lacked basic parenting skills.
After several other legal actions, the district court terminated the mother’s parental rights. By that time, the child was 8 months old.
The mother appealed, citing several issues. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court action, citing one key factor, “the failure of the Department of Human Services to provide a sign language interpreter … knowing she was hearing impaired.”
In its ruling, the court said, “We conclude the department knew of the mother’s hearing impairment at the time of the child’s birth but made no effort to retain an interpreter until the child was 4 months old.
“The department’s refusal to furnish an interpreter immediately amounted to a violation of its statutory reasonable efforts obligation and a failure to satisfy the reasonable efforts prong of Iowa Code.”