By PETER HUSSMANN
State Sen. Dennis Black on Monday introduced legislation designed to protect Iowa families from experiencing what one Des Moines family did when an elderly relative was removed from his home by state human services workers and his belongings disposed of without their knowledge.
The Lynnville Democrat filed Senate File 344, a measure that requires the Department of Human Resources, when acting as guardian or conservator of an individual, to provide an affidavit to the ward's family should a decision be made about the individual's removal from their residence and that a detailed inventory of the ward's property be included.
The legislation is linked to a situation that began in late 2009 when a DHS worker removed Bob Queener from his Des Moines home without notifying family members. The court-ordered emergency removal led to a series of institutional and nursing home placements, all made outside the family's control. A court-appointed conservator began disposing of his possessions - including memorabilia pertaining to his service as a paratrooper in the Korean War - without his knowledge then put the home he owned up for sale.
Black, hearing of the family's troubles through news reports, offered his assistance. In July, a Polk County District Court Judge awarded guardianship of the 79-year-old Queener to his niece, Cheri Jensen, and Black, a ruling ending a months-long battle over who should oversee his well-being.
At that time, Black said legislation should be enacted to protect those no longer able to care for themselves to allow for family input over the care and that property not be disposed of before the family has a chance to go through it.