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Name: Amanda H. v. Superior Court (LA Co. DFCS)
Case #: B205474
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 06/27/2008
Subsequent History: Ordered published on 9/17/2008

DFCS cannot meet the clear and convincing evidence standard when it has made a mistake and told mother and the court for a year that she was enrolled in the right programs and then, at the eleventh hour, use that mistake to ask the court to terminate services.
This was an extraordinary writ following a termination of reunification services. At the six-month review, the social worker reported that if mother continued to participate in the programs she was enrolled in, then there was a possibility of return of her children to her at the twelve-month review. Before the twelve-month review, the social worker found out that mother was not registered in a program on domestic violence, separate from her parenting program and counseling which addressed domestic violence issues. When mother found out that she was not meeting the service plan, she immediately enrolled in the domestic violence program. The social worker reported that mother had not adequately addressed her anger and domestic violence issues and the court followed the recommendation to terminate reunification services. DFCS must make a good faith effort to develop and implement a family reunification plan. That requires identifying the problems leading to the loss of custody, offering services designed to remedy the problems, maintaining reasonable contact with the parents during the service plan, and making reasonable efforts to assist the parents in areas where compliance proved difficult. In this case, the social worker failed to demonstrate good faith efforts and the representations made may have thwarted mother’s ability to adequately address the plan within the statutory timeframe. DFCS argued that mother forfeited her right to challenge the reasonableness of her services because she did not raise the issue at the six-month review. The court found an exception to this rule where the mother did not know of the social worker’s misrepresentation until the twelve-month hearing.