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Name: In re Joseph T., Jr.
Case #: B198610
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 06/03/2008

The relative placement preference under section 361.3, subdivision (a), applies at least through the family reunification period. Father appealed the denial of his request at the six-month review hearing to consider placement with a paternal aunt. He contended that the failure to consider the aunt was prejudicial error under the relative placement preference of section 361.3, subdivision (a). The department took the position that section 361.3 did not require it, or the juvenile court, to evaluate the aunt because under subdivision (d), the relative placement preference applies only at the time of the disposition hearing or where a new placement of the child is made. The appellate court rejected the Department’s contention, finding that neither the language of subdivision (d) nor its legislative history supported that position. Further, the department’s interpretation is contrary to strong California policy in favor of relative placement. However, in this case, the error was harmless. Placing the minor out of county with his paternal aunt would have frustrated the goal of reunification with the mother.