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Name: In re H.K.
Case #: B242800
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/18/2013

The juvenile court properly denied placement of minor with half-sibling who had a manslaughter conviction. The juvenile court sustained a dependency petition and removed the minor from her father. Father’s reunification services were eventually terminated, and the minor sought to be placed with an adult half-sibling who lived in Arizona. The juvenile court denied the request because the sibling had a 1995 conviction for voluntary manslaughter, and California law prohibits placement of a child in the home of any person who previously has been convicted of violent offenses including murder and voluntary manslaughter. On appeal, minor contended that this prohibition is unconstitutional as it applies to her because it impermissibly interferes with her fundamental right to maintain family ties and does not permit exceptions in the court’s discretion. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed the juvenile court’s order. Although case law recognizes the right of a child to remain in a bonded placement, it does not establish a right to be placed with a relative with whom the child is not bonded. Here, the minor had only met the half-sibling a few times and had never lived with him. She did not have a fundamental right to be placed with him, and the restriction on the placement passes constitutional muster because it is logically related to the protection of children in foster care. It is appropriate for the Legislature to determine that the risk to a child’s safety is sufficiently high based on a prior conviction of voluntary manslaughter to justify not placing the child with that person, where the child has not already formed a parental relationship.