Deportation Can Affect Child Reunification Efforts

Father (F) and Mother (M) are the parents of three children who were living in San Diego County, California. In November of 2011, F was arrested for domestic violence and deported to Mexico. After F’s deportation, The San Diego County of Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) began investigating the welfare of F and M’s children. There were numerous referrals that M was abusing alcohol and neglecting their children.

Fifteen investigations took place by the Agency, and in 2015, the children were placed in protective custody when M was arrested for extreme intoxication and grand theft. (During this time, F had no contact with his children.)

Although M told the Agency that she had no contact with F, apparently she contacted him, because he contacted the Agency by phone. He said he was living in Tijuana, Mexico, and that he wanted the children placed with him in Mexico.

The Agency contacted Desarrollo Integral para la Familia (DIF) in Mexico to conduct an evaluation of F’s home and provide him with parenting education and domestic violence prevention classes.

A few days later, F told the Agency that he’d changed his mind. He could not educate his children as well as the United States, so he wanted them to remain there. The Agency told him to contact his attorney to ensure that was what he wanted to do.

After speaking with his attorney, F changed his mind again, and said that he wanted custody of his children. However, he had not participated in any DIF or Agency ordered courses, mostly because DIF failed to provide them to him. (However, through the Agency’s help, he was able to visitation with his children during this time at the international border.)

At the hearing of January 3, 2017, the court returned the children to M, and that she was to be monitored. Regarding F’s request for custody the court stated: "The bigger problem is that [F] was in Mexico . . .and unable to benefit from the services provided by the Agency here. And the reason [F] was in Mexico is because he was deported to Mexico for domestic-violence related offenses. So through his own actions, he was deported, and then the Agency couldn't provide services to him. But the Agency made reasonable efforts to attempt to get the services provided by the Mexican officials through DIF, and then he showed up at DIF and said he didn't want the services.

F appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with F, stating: “…To support a finding that reasonable services were offered or provided to the parent, "the record should show that the supervising agency identified the problems leading to the loss of custody, offered services designed to remedy those problems, maintained reasonable contact with the parents during the course of the service plan, and made reasonable efforts to assist the parents in areas where compliance proved difficult...Reunification services should be tailored to the particular needs of the family.”

The Court further stated, “…The Legislature provides that services for a deported parent include in their country of origin, to identify any available services that would substantially comply with case plan requirements, to document the parents' participation in this services, and to accept reports from local child welfare authorities as to the parents' living situation, progress and participation in services."

Finally, the Court concluded: “…The record does not contain any evidence to show that during the review period, the Agency assisted A.J. in contacting DIF for service referrals or identified any available services that would substantially comply with case plan requirements. The record shows that A.J. was not offered, or provided with, the court-ordered services in his case plan during the review period. Accordingly, we conclude there is not substantial evidence to support the reasonable services finding.”

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