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Name: In re Isaiah S.
Case #: D069928
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/10/2017

Mother lacked standing to raise relative placement issue at parental rights termination hearing. The minor, Isaiah was the subject of a juvenile dependency action based on his exposure to violence in the home. He was placed in foster care in the same home with three younger siblings, and his foster family wished to adopt them. Maternal relatives also wanted to adopt the minors, though appellant mother originally opposed this placement. Mother stopped visiting and lost touch with the Department. Maternal relatives expressed a desire to adopt the minor, and had visited him multiple times. Their homes were in the process of being assessed. At a 366.26 hearing, mother’s parental rights were terminated, and the foster parents were named the prospective adoptive parents. Mother objected and wanted Isaiah placed with the maternal relatives. On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court did not comply with the relative placement statute, and abused its discretion by not exercising independent judgment on the issue of relative placement. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that mother lacked the standing to appeal relative placement preferences after the juvenile court terminated services. Because placement with the relatives did not advance her argument against terminating parental rights, she lacked standing to assert it. The court also rejected mother’s argument that termination would substantially interfere with Isaiah’s relationship with another sibling who was placed in a different home. The record showed that the foster mother was committed to continuing the relationship, and the minors saw each other regularly. Further, the fighting between them–more than “typical sibling bickering”–had resulted in significant physical injuries to Isaiah. Although the minors shared a strong bond, “the nature of that relationship was somewhat detrimental to Isaiah’s health.”