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Name: In re G.S.R.
Case #: B197000
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 02/07/2008

Parental rights termination reversed where father’s sole failing was his financial inability to provide housing for the minors. The minors were detained from mother’s custody. Appellant, the non-custodial father, stayed involved in the proceedings but was unable to assume custody of them due to his financial inability to provide adequate housing. The social worker repeatedly stated that father’s inability to afford housing showed he was not interested in obtaining custody of the minors. The juvenile court terminated parental rights. The appellate court reversed and remanded to the juvenile court to consider the current facts and circumstances and determine whether there was sufficient grounds to assert jurisdiction over the minors, and to renew reunification services for father and the minors. A juvenile court must make findings that a parent was unfit before it may terminate parental rights. Here, appellant was a noncustodial parent who had never been found unfit, and whose sole failing was a financial inability to obtain suitable housing. Poverty resulting in homelessness is not a valid basis for assertion of juvenile court jurisdiction. The Department may not bootstrap the fact that father was too poor to afford housing, which was not a basis for jurisdiction in the first place, to support findings of detriment. This is particularly so when DCFS made no effort to help father obtain affordable housing.