Where mother had addressed all of the court’s concerns when it terminated services, the court abused its discretion when it denied her 388 petition to place the minor with her. Following termination of her services, mother addressed the domestic violence issues that formed the entire basis of the dependency action. She also addressed the court’s other concerns by completing drug testing, receiving mental health services, and improving her living conditions. Since the termination of her services, mother had done everything asked of her, and presented evidence in the 388 hearing that in light of this change of circumstances, it was in the minor’s best interest to be placed with her. Even DCFS testified that mother posed no danger to the minor. However, the juvenile court denied the petition because mother had not been “trained” to care for the minor’s special needs, and the foster parents had more experience in this regard. The appellate court found that the juvenile court abused its discretion when it denied the petition. Mother’s petition established a substantial change in circumstances. There was ample evidence that mother had addressed the sole basis for juvenile court jurisdiction as well as every other concern cited by the court in its order terminating services. Although the minor had a strong bond with the foster parents, he also had a bond with mother, which even DCFS said was “blossoming.” If placed with mother, he would also have relationships with his extended family. Mother was never required to participate in any training regarding the minor’s special needs, yet the juvenile court cited her lack of training as the reason to deny her placement. The foster parents received no specialized training. The juvenile court’s conclusion that mother needed training about the minor’s special needs in order to care for him was pure speculation, and an unreasonable basis for concluding placement with her would not be in the minor’s best interest. Therefore, the order denying mother’s 388 petition was reversed, and the juvenile court was instructed to enter a new order placing the minor with mother. This also necessarily required reversal of the denial of a similar petition filed subsequently, as well as the termination of mother’s parental rights.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B298473.PDF