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Name: In re F.A.
Case #: G051494
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/13/2015

The juvenile court did not err by granting second foster parents 388 petition even though minor was erroneously removed from first foster parents. When the minor was born exposed to methamphetamine, the court placed her with the S. foster parents, who hoped to adopt her. When the minor was seven weeks old, the Department erroneously removed her from the S’s care and placed her with the M’s, who also hoped to adopt her. When the Department discovered its mistake, it decided to re-place the minor with the S’s. The M’s filed a grievance, which resulted in the minor staying in their custody for 100 days prior to a hearing on both parents’ 388 petitions. The trial court found that both couples would be excellent adoptive parents, but granted the M’s petition because they had an approved home study and the baby had been flourishing in their care for the last 100 days. On appeal, the S’s contended that the appeal should be treated as a writ petition, the Department should have returned the minor to them prior to the M’s filing a grievance, the court abused its discretion by granting several continuances which resulted in the minor staying so long in the M’s care, that the court exceeded its authority by overriding the Department’s decision to return the minor to the S’s, and that the case was not moot. The appellate court found no merit to the first four contentions. What happened to the S’s was wrong, and could have been prevented if there were regulations and policies in place which would have allowed the S’s to promptly challenge the removal prior to the placement of the minor with another couple. However, the court did not abuse its discretion when it placed the minors with the M’s given the difficult situation created by wrongly removing the minor and then placing her with another family who wished to adopt her. The court declined to issue an advisory opinion suggesting a remedy for an unknown future case. However, it did suggest that the Department consider new procedures and policies to address the situation of a minor being wrongly removed from foster parents under exigent circumstances which turn out to be unfounded.