The juvenile court did not err when it returned three-year-old minor to mother’s custody following her 388 petition. The trial court granted mother’s Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 petition to return her three-year-old son, I.B., to her custody. The court ordered that I.B.’s five-year-old sibling A.B. would remain with the foster parents who had been interested in adopting both boys. I.B.’s attorney appealed, arguing that the siblings should not have been separated. Also, I.B. and the Agency agreed that the juvenile court erred because mother did not demonstrate a change in circumstances or show that changing I.B.’s custody was in his best interests. The appellate court found it was a close case, but affirmed the orders. Although it took mother over a year to “get her act together” it was reasonable for the court to determine that the circumstances had changed. Mother’s home was free of health and safety hazards. After services were terminated, mother continued therapy and classes, and her attitude had changed. The court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that mother demonstrated changed circumstances in regard to domestic violence. Although it took her a long time, mother had separated from father, who was a controlling and dominating abuser. The court reasonably concluded that mother’s ability to maintain separation from father had changed due to mother’s change of outlook. Further, there was ample evidence in the record that the inability to control A.B.’s behavior was not due to mother’s lack of parenting skills. A.B.’s teachers and caregivers also struggled with his behavioral issues. Mother rebutted the presumption that continued out of home placement was in I.B.’s best interests. I.B. was three years old and bonded to both mother and his foster parents. Mother was a constant and positive presence in his life and never missed a visit. There were disadvantages to both placements, as A.B. was sometimes abusive to his younger brother. Mother met her burden of proof and the court did not abuse its discretion in returning I.B. to her custody.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/G058814.PDF