Terminating Parental Rights and the Wisdom of Solomon

In 2013, a five-year-old child [S] was removed from his mother’s [M] care by Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS] due to physical abuse by M.  He was originally placed with M’s grandmother [GM].

According to M, S’ father [F] was not a part of S’s life and she did know where to find him.  After reunification services S was returned to M’s care because F could not be found.  However, in 2016, S was removed again from M’s care; this time for substance abuse.

In the meantime, F heard about S, and wanted to be S’s primary care giver.  GM was removed by DCFS because she was allowing both M and F unmonitored visits with S.  S was then placed in the foster care system.  DCFS would not place S in F’s care, because his home was not suitable.  F lived in a two-bedroom one bath apartment with six other people.  By 2017, M’s parental rights were terminated.  Throughout 2018 and 2019, DCFS helped F receive parenting classes and find housing.  No one was successful in finding housing for F.

In December of 2019, the juvenile court denied F’s request to continue services for the return of his son.  The court said it did not have the jurisdiction to provide F with more help after 24 months, and that his parental rights would be terminated.  F appealed.

The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision stating terminating F’s parental rights because of poverty were not in S’s best interests.

The Court also stated: “Dependency cases require the wisdom of Solomon. This is because juvenile courts typically balance parental rights against the child’s best interests, important interests that sometimes conflict. The Legislature has given juvenile courts tools to ameliorate [to improve] these conflicts, notably providing reunification services to a parent without custody of his or her child…”

“…Accordingly, we reverse the denial of father’s request for a continuance of the permanency review hearing, the juvenile court’s finding of detriment, and the order terminating reunification services, and remand for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.”

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