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Name: In re A.S.
Case #: D073561
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/03/2018
Summary

The juvenile court’s selection of tribal customary adoption as the children’s permanent plan did not violate parents’ due process rights. Following 44 months of reunification services, parents were unable to address the protective issues raised by the dependency case involving the Indian minors. The juvenile court selected a tribal customary adoption as the permanent plan for the minors as recommended by the minors’ tribe. Parents were given the opportunity to present evidence at the 366.26 hearing. However, because the Tribe completed the tribal adoption order and submitted it prior to the hearing, parents contended they were not afforded a meaningful opportunity to present evidence to the Tribe regarding the terms of the proposed tribal customary adoption before it prepared its order. Although parents claimed they did not have sufficient input, the social workers claimed they had communicated with parents prior to making the order. The juvenile court made no express finding as to whether the parents had been provided a meaningful opportunity to present information to the Tribe. On appeal, the parents contended that the court’s selection of tribal customary adoption violated their due process rights because they were denied the opportunity to present evidence to the Tribe regarding the children’s best interests. The appellate court rejected the argument. Although a specific finding from the juvenile court would have been preferred, the record reflects that the parents communicated with the Tribe before the Tribe’s order was final. Based on the evidence, the juvenile court could have reasonably concluded that the parents were afforded a sufficient opportunity to be heard by the Tribe before it finalized the tribal customary adoption order. Therefore the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in awarding the tribal customary adoption order full faith and credit. Further, even if the court erred, the error was harmless. The parents did not show what additional information they would have shared with the Tribe that was relevant to the minors’ best interests. The juvenile court allowed the parents to testify about visitation and their relationship with the children. Parents further contended that the court improperly limited the scope of the section 366.26 hearing to issues of adoptability and detriment. The appellate court found that the juvenile court did not err by granting the motion to limit the hearing’s focus. Even if the court erred in excluding additional evidence, any error was harmless because the admission of evidence involving visitation would not have resulted in a more favorable outcome for the parents.