Mother Challenges Juvenile Court Order Terminating Reunification

In this case, the Fourth District granted M’s petition for a writ challenging an Orange County juvenile court’s order terminating reunification services and setting a permanency planning hearing, holding that there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the order.

Under the circumstances presented here (i.e., a basically fit parent who struggles with caring for a child with special medical needs), the correct analytical framework is not whether it would be safe to return daughter to mother without any further involvement of SSA or the court. The petition notes that returning daughter to mother “would not have closed the case. Rather, it would initiate a period of Family Maintenance wherein the court and counsel would be able to continue monitoring [daughter’s] medication while in Mother’s care.” Indeed, though this does not occur automatically, juvenile courts have discretion to continue family maintenance services beyond the 18-month review hearing if the dependent child is returned to the custody of the parent. (Bridget A. v. Superior Court (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 285, 312.)

We conclude that, viewed from the perspective appropriate to this case, the court’s ruling lacks substantial evidence. There is insufficient evidence in our record to support a conclusion that there is currently a substantial danger of physical harm to daughter, if she is returned to mother’s custody with checks in place to verify that mother is administering medication to daughter and transporting daughter to medical appointments. We agree there is substantial evidence that mother cannot be trusted to care for daughter on her own. We disagree there is substantial evidence that daughter will suffer physical harm if she is returned to mother’s custody with appropriate monitoring in place to assist her in maintaining the necessary discipline and hard work of caring for daughter.

The full opinion can be read here.

Categories