Using ICPC for Child Placement with Out-of-State Parent

The Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services [DCFS] removed Daughter [D] (age five) and Son [S] (age six months) from their mother’s care after a complaint for methamphetamine abuse and physical abuse of the children. S was placed in the care of his father, and D was placed in the care of M’s aunt [A].  The court ordered reunification services for M.  Sadly, M did not comply with reunification orders and DCFS requested the court terminate M’s parental rights.

In each of the juvenile court’s child update hearings, DCFS informed the court that it had not been able to locate D’s Father [F].  DCFS did not show the court any documentation of its attempts to reach F, but was aware that he lived in the state of Idaho.  In DCFS’s records, though, were documents returned by the US Postal Service as “undeliverable as addressed.”  The document envelopes were addressed to Idaho, California.

Also not included in the documentation given to the court were five separate investigations of A and her family by DCFS regarding alleged physical abuse of D because of her bruises.  Nor did DCFS include in its documentation that A brought D to DCFS offices to “return her” because A did not want her any more.

F learned of a hearing from some of M’s relatives and appeared in court.  He requested that he be given custody of D because he was her biological father and that he could provide her with a good home in Idaho.  DCFS continued to request that A be allowed to adopt D, stating that D was “thriving with [A] and it would be a good placement.”  The court ordered an ICPC evaluation to determine whether F’s home would be a good placement for D.  He also ordered A and DCFS to allow F to have phone conversations and visitations with D.

F appealed the juvenile court’s order for an ICPC evaluation because, this type of evaluation is used for moving foster children to other states.  An Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a compact “…among California and other states, ‘to facilitate the cooperation between states in the placement and monitoring of dependent children’” for fostering or adoption.

The Appellate Court affirmed the juvenile court:

“Although an ICPC evaluation was not legally required prior to placing [D] with [F], the court had discretion to use such an evaluation ‘as a means of gathering information’ about [F] for the purposes of determining whether placing [D] with him would be detrimental to her.”

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