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Name: In re Collin E.
Case #: D072988
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/02/2018
Summary

Juvenile court did not err by terminating parental rights where substantial evidence supported its conclusion that continued custody by either parent would likely result in serious harm to the minor. Minor was an Indian child with special needs, removed from parents due to substance abuse. At the 366.26 hearing, the Indian expert concluded that continued custody by parents was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the minor. The Cherokee nation was opposed to the termination of parental rights, and noted that the parents appeared to be safely caring for their other child. The juvenile court found that active efforts had been made to provide services to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, and that those efforts had been unsuccessful. It found beyond a reasonable doubt that the minor’s continued custody by either parent would likely result in serious emotional or physical damage to the minor, and terminated parental rights. On appeal, parents contended that the evidence was insufficient to support the finding that continued custody would result in serious emotional or physical harm to the minor. By the time of the 366.26 hearing, mother had been sober for 10 months. Parents contended that the Indian expert’s declaration was based on parents’ past circumstances, and argued that the court was required to consider whether continuation of legal custody would be likely to cause harm to the minor. The appellate court rejected parents’ argument, holding that the phrase “continued custody” refers to both legal and physical custody in making the finding required under 25 U.S.C. § 1912(f). Further, there was substantial evidence to support the ICWA detriment finding. Parents were addicted to opiates and did not believe that taking prescription medication was substance abuse. The minor had many special needs the parents did not address. As parents had not participated fully in reunification services, their visitation with the minor had never progressed beyond supervised visits. The juvenile court properly considered the continuing opioid abuse as well as parents’ denial of any problem as a danger to the minor’s well-being. The court further found that the beneficial parent-child relationship did not apply. When a child is adoptable, there is a strong preference for adoption over less secure and stable permanent plans. The court rejected father’s argument that adoption by grandfather would serve only to confuse the minor. Their relationship was already parental in nature.