Reasonable Efforts to Preserve or Reunify Families and Achieve Permanency for Children - Iowa

Date: September 2019

What Are Reasonable Efforts

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.102(12)

The term 'reasonable efforts' refers to efforts made to preserve and unify a family.

Reasonable efforts may include, but are not limited to, family-centered services if the child's safety in the home can be maintained during the time the services are provided.

The term 'family-centered services' means services and other support intended to maintain a child safely with the child's family or with a relative; to return a child, safely and in a timely manner, to the home of the child's parent or relative; or to promote the achievement of concurrent planning goals by identifying and helping the child secure placement for adoption, with a guardian, or with other alternative permanent family connections. Family-centered services are adapted to the individual needs of a family in regard to the specific services and other support provided to the child's family and the intensity and duration of service delivery. Family-centered services are intended to preserve a child's connections to the child's neighborhood, community, and family and to improve the overall capacity of the child's family to provide for the needs of the children in the family.

When Reasonable Efforts Are Required

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.102(12)

Reasonable efforts are required as follows:

  • Prior to out-of-home placement of a child in foster care to eliminate the need for removal of the child
  • To make it possible for the child to return safely to the family's home

If returning the child to the family's home is not appropriate or possible, reasonable efforts shall include the efforts made in a timely manner to finalize a permanency plan for the child. A child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern in making reasonable efforts.

In determining whether reasonable efforts have been made, the court shall consider both of the following:

  • The type, duration, and intensity of services or support offered or provided to the child and the child's family
  • The relative risk to the child of remaining in the child's home versus removal of the child

If family-centered services were not provided, the court record shall enumerate the reasons the services were not provided, including, but not limited to, whether the services were not available, not accepted by the child's family, judged to be unable to protect the child and the child's family during the time the services would have been provided, judged to be unlikely to be successful in resolving the problems which would lead to removal of the child, or other services were found to be more appropriate.

When Reasonable Efforts Are NOT Required

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.102(14)

If the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that aggravated circumstances exist, the court may waive the requirement for making reasonable efforts. The existence of aggravated circumstances is indicated by any of the following: /p>

  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The court finds the child in need of assistance based on a finding of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
  • The parent's parental rights to another child have been terminated and there is clear and convincing evidence that services likely will not, within a reasonable time, correct the conditions that led to the child's removal from the home.
  • The parent has been convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child or aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit either crime.
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent.