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Name: In re Carl L.
Case #: D044674
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/28/2005
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 7/20/05

The eight year old minor, who had severe disabilities and would require intensive care for life, had lived in a convalescent hospital in San Diego for most of his life, and was bonded to one of his caretakers there. That caretaker wished to adopt the minor, but was not approved for adoption. The minor was adoptable because a family in San Diego wanted to adopt him, as well as a family in Sacramento. The court terminated parental rights because the family in Sacramento had been approved to adopt the minor. On appeal, appellants (both the minor and his mother) contended that because the minor was not generally adoptable, the court had to consider the suitability of the adoptive family and whether they could meet the minor’s special educational needs. (The family planned to home school the minor.) The appellate court disagreed, finding that generally the suitability of the prospective adoptive family does not constitute a legal impediment to adoption and is irrelevant to the issue of whether a child is likely to be adopted. However, the court addressed the issue of the proper scope of the inquiry where the child will require intensive care for life. This situation is different because if the prospective adoptive family is later determined to be unsuitable, the child is at risk of becoming a legal orphan. However, although the family must educate the child, there is no authority requiring the court to assess the specific educational plan, and such an inquiry would be inappropriate. There was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the minor would receive an education comparable to that he was receiving in San Diego. The plan to home school the minor was not a legal impediment to adoption. Nor were the minor’s due process rights violated when the court refused to hear evidence about the educational programs available to him in San Diego. Further, the court did not err by refusing to allow appellants to introduce evidence pertaining to the minor’s relationship with his caretaker, since it was not relevant to establish the existence of the section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(D) exception. That section did not apply because the caretaker was neither a relative or a foster parent who the minor lived with. There was no general “best interest” exception to adoption because the minor was bonded to a caretaker and had educational opportunities available to him in San Diego. Finally, the court did not err when it summarily denied the minor’s 388 petition following the 366.26 hearing, because the minor did not demonstrate changed circumstances. The San Diego family who wished to adopt still had not been approved as foster parents, and thus were not a placement option.