Order terminating services and setting a 366.26 hearing was reversed where there was insufficient evidence that return of the minor to mother would cause a substantial risk of harm to his safety or well-being. Mother sought extraordinary relief from an order terminating her reunification services and setting a hearing pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26. Mother contended that the juvenile court erred when it considered her purported lack of insight into the problems leading to the minor’s removal. She argued that her purported lack of insight was not a proper ground for terminating services and setting a 366.26 hearing. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that a parent’s lack of insight may be considered by the juvenile court when assessing whether a child may safely be returned home. As a victim of domestic violence, mother’s lack of insight into the risks potentially created by her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, who had been convicted of spousal rape, was a far cry from a parent who failed to internalize parenting skills. However, the Department failed to present substantial evidence the minor would be at substantial risk of detriment if returned to mother. Their opinion relied on an inference that mother would violate a restraining order, and that the boyfriend would commit an act of violence on mother or the minor, neither of which had a basis in evidence. Further, any risk could be effectively neutralized by court supervision after returning the minor to mother’s care. While mother may not have been a perfect parent, there was insufficient evidence that returning the minor to her home, with appropriate safeguards in place, would create a risk to his safety or well-being. Therefore, the petition was granted, and the court vacated the juvenile court’s previous order.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B301629.PDF