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Name: In re J.P. et al
Case #: B277756
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 08/17/2017

Trial court abused its discretion by ordering a parent to participate in a reunification plan that the parent cannot comply with due to a language barrier. Father immigrated to the United States from Myanmar with two of his children. Mother remained in Thailand awaiting permission to immigrate. Father spoke only Burmese or Karen. DCFS became involved when an anonymous call to a child abuse hotline informed them that father was drinking every day and did not care for the children. DCFS investigated and filed a section 300(b) petition, which was sustained. DCFS had difficulty finding alcohol programs for father because he did not speak English. Nonetheless, father was ordered to complete a full drug and alcohol program and a parenting program. Father appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering him to complete programs his language barrier prevented him from completing. DCFS moved to dismiss the appeal when a subsequent order placed the minors with their mother (who had recently arrived) and dismissed jurisdiction. The appellate court held that the issue was not moot, as father lost legal and physical custody of the children, with only monitored visitation. Further, it held that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to order effective reunification services. The dependency court, after being advised by DCFS that it could not provide a realistic treatment program because of father’s language barrier, nonetheless ordered father to participate in an ineffective alcohol treatment program. This constituted an abuse of discretion. The trial court was ordered to reconsider the termination of jurisdiction and determine the appropriate remedy given its erroneous disposition order.