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Name: In re Ethan N.
Case #: F045016
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/08/2004
Subsequent History: 12/1/04 Revw. den.

The juvenile court erred in granting reunification services to mother where mother was responsible for the death of another child. Section 361.5, subdivision (b)(4) allows for a bypass of services where the parent’s conduct has caused the death of another child. That section can be overcome where reunification would be in the surviving child’s best interest. Here, the juvenile court’s conclusion that reunification was in Ethan’s best interest was based on the court’s finding that mother had made significant progress towards alleviating the causes of the dependency, such as visitation, drug treatment programs, NA meetings, etc. However, while there was substantial evidence of the progress, there was not substantial evidence that reunification would be in Ethan’s best interest. Ethan was an infant when he was removed, and was bonded to his caretakers. There was no evidence that reunifying with a mother he saw once a week, and who was engaged in the “lifelong process” of recovery, would benefit him. The cases in which a parent who has been responsible for the death of another child show that where reunification is in the child’s best interest will be rare, and this case is not one of them.