When Parenting Courses Aren't Necessary

Father [F] and Mother [M] never married, by they had a daughter together [D].  F also had five grown children from previous relationships. M also had children from previous relationships, but all four of her children were removed from her care.

On June 10, 2019, the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services [DCFS] received a referral M and D living at the Union Mission.  M had been using drugs during her pregnancy and was still using them.  When questioned M denied using drugs and named F as D’s biological father.  F did not know M was pregnant with his child and thought someone else was D’s father.

Two weeks later, DCFS removed D from M’s custody and placed her in foster care.  At the juvenile detention hearing, F appeared.  The court determined him to be D’s presumed father.  The court also ordered that F be given custody of D if he lived with his adult daughter in Victorville (in San Bernardino County).

At the next jurisdiction hearing, DCFS presented evidence of F’s criminal background.  He was convicted of drug offenses, battery, and domestic violence.  He served time for the domestic violence.  DCFS also presented to the court that F appeared to have a good, caring relationship with his daughter.  It may have been years since he had to care for a baby, but he was doing well, and D was thriving in his care.  However, DCFS wanted F to take a parenting class to improve his parenting skills.  F did not want to take a parenting class.  He had taken one in 2015, and was doing fine with D on his own.

The trial court found for DCFS, because of F’s criminal history and ordered him to take a parenting class.  F appealed.

The Appellate Court overturned the juvenile court’s findings.

“…The record contains uncontroverted evidence that after the baby was placed with him at the detention hearing, [F] provided appropriate care for [D].  His home was safe and had the necessary baby supplies.  He was meeting the baby’s needs, and he had a nurturing and healthy relationship with [D].  Furthermore, in 2015, [F] had completed a formal parenting program.  Thus, we agree with Father that the order was not necessary to protect [D]... Criminal history, standing alone, has no bearing on parenting abilities…”

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