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Name: In re J.Y.
Case #: C082548
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/26/2018

A parent lacked standing after termination of reunification services to contest a change in a minor’s placement to a tribe-approved home. The juvenile court removed three minors from mother’s custody based on her mental illness and substance abuse. Their father was a member of the Pit River Tribe. The court placed J.Y. separately from his siblings while the social services agency sought an “ICWA-approved home.” After services had been terminated, the agency located such a home and sought to place all three children there together. Mother opposed the change in J.Y.’s placement, and appealed from the order that granted it. (C082548.) The court later gave full faith and credit to a tribal customary adoption order that granted mother certain visitation rights. But as the case progressed, the tribe amended the order to leave visitation in the discretion of the tribal adoptive parents; and the court gave this order full faith and credit. Mother challenged this decision, as well. (C084428.) The Court of Appeal affirmed both orders. First, the court held that mother lacked standing to contest the change in J.Y.’s placement because her reunification services had already been terminated. She failed to identify any specific legal right of hers that had been infringed by the placement order. Her stronger relationship with one caregiver over the other did not amount to a legal right that had been affected by the order. And mother did not show how the order would affect her parental rights, which would prove an exception to the general rule that a parent does not have standing to contest placement orders after the termination of services.

The juvenile court did not err in giving full faith and credit to the tribe’s amended order for tribal customary adoption. Mother argued that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to give full faith and credit to the tribe’s second tribal customary adoption order because it had already given full faith and credit to the initial order. Mother urged that this amounted to improperly modifying a final adoption order because Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26, subdivision (i)(2) establishes that granting full faith and credit to a tribal order has the same effect as any other order of adoption. The court rejected the claim, noting that section 366.24 establishes procedures that follow the granting of full faith and credit. This suggested that the initial order is not necessarily a final order and could be modified prior to becoming a final order. To the extent that California Rules of Court, rule 5.725(e) conflicted with this statute, the court disapproved the rule. Finally, the court held that denying a modification would improperly restrict the tribe’s ability to act in the child’s best interests before the adoption is finalized, which the court held “cannot be the case.”