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Name: In re A.L.
Case #: D068464
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/31/2014

Juvenile court erred by refusing to hear further testimony on the Agency’s “active efforts” concerning Indian minors. Minors were made dependents of the juvenile court due to mother’s drug abuse. The court also found, as required by the ICWA, that continued custody by mother would result in serious damage to the minors, that active efforts had been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, and that those efforts had been unsuccessful. At the six-month review hearing, the department recommended termination of services and requested that the court make an active efforts finding. The court followed the recommendation over the parents’ objections. At the 366.26 hearing, the tribe’s family services director testified, but the court excluded a portion of her declaration concerning the Agency’s active efforts, finding that the issue of active efforts had already been determined. On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court erred by excluding evidence related to the Agency’s active efforts, and that the finding made at the six-month review hearing was not adequate. The appellate court found that although the juvenile court made an active efforts finding at the time it terminated services, it was error not to allow further litigation on the issue during the permanency planning hearing. However, the record showed that the Agency did make reasonable efforts to help mother with her drug problem as well as efforts to place the minors with maternal relatives with tribal affiliations. Therefore, the juvenile court’s error was harmless, and reversal was not required.