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Name: In re J.L.
Case #: B250566
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 05/15/2014

Juvenile court improperly dismissed petition where mother left minor in the care of relatives who abused her. Mother had left the seven-year-old minor, J.L., for two years with relatives while she was in and out of prison. The minor was physically and sexually abused by the relatives. When mother was released from prison and learned of the abuse, she reported it and took J.L. to a hospital. The Department filed a petition alleging that mother made an inappropriate plan for the minor by leaving her with abusive relatives. The juvenile court dismissed the petition because it believed mother’s testimony that she had not anticipated the abuse when she left J.L. in the relatives’ custody, because the abuser was now in prison and not an ongoing threat, and because J.L. would be “better off with her mother than in foster care.” The appellate court reversed, finding that there was no reasonable basis for the trial court’s dismissal of the petition. Whether or not mother knew or should have known about the abuse was beside the point. There was overwhelming and undisputed evidence that mother made an inappropriate plan to place J.L. in the care of relatives who abused her. Whether the plan was inappropriate does not depend on whether mother should have known that the minor would be abused. Mother admitted knowing many facts that demonstrated that the minor would be at risk in this home. She knew of the relative’s criminal history, and said that he “only wanted custody of J.L. for the food stamps and money.” There was no evidence that supported the court’s conclusion that the minor would be better off with mother than in foster care, and in any case, that was a placement issue not affecting jurisdiction.