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Name: In re J.G.
Case #: D072293
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/02/2018

Juvenile court erred when it allowed minors to remain in placement with their aunt who failed to provide them adequate food. Minors were placed with M.G. (Aunt) in 2014, after their father killed their mother and was sentenced to prison. In 2016, the Department filed a supplemental petition alleging that placement with Aunt had not been effective, because the younger children had been diagnosed with nonorganic failure to thrive, and the youngest with severe malnutrition. The minors were detained, and gained weight rapidly in foster care. A psychiatric evaluation of Aunt showed that she had an adjustment disorder and minimized the significance of the children’s failure to thrive. The examining physician concluded that psychiatric treatment would not be of much benefit. However, the juvenile court allowed the minors to stay with Aunt, with appropriate services to mitigate risk such as monthly visits by the social worker, monthly pediatric checkups, and psychotherapy for Aunt. The minors appealed, and the appellate court reversed. The record showed that Aunt failed to provide the minors with adequate food and intentionally limited their food portions, resulting in their diagnoses of severe malnutrition and nonorganic failure to thrive. The fact that Aunt may have lacked the intent to harm the children did not mitigate her failure to provide adequate food. The juvenile court erred in determining that it was safe for the children to remain in Aunt’s care because she did not intend to starve them. The record clearly established that the minors remained at risk of food insecurity in Aunt’s care. The juvenile court abused its discretion in determining that continued placement in Aunt’s care was in their best interests.