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Name: In re Joshua G.
Case #: D044973
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/10/2005

The Department told the parents that its recommendation would be guardianship at the time of the jurisdictional hearing. However, minor’s counsel asked the court to prepare an adoption assessment, and the maternal grandparents wanted to adopt the minors. The Department later changed its recommendation to adoption. The court continued the section 366.26 hearing to allow the parents to file 388 petitions in light of the changed recommendations. The Department filed an addendum report changing its recommendation back to guardianship based on its initial agreement with the parents at the time they submitted to the referral hearing. The court terminated parental rights, and the parents appealed. On appeal, they contended that the Department should be equitably estopped from asserting that they did not meet their burden to show that the 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(A) exception applied. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the parents could not reasonably rely on the court following the Department’s recommendation because they knew the children wished to be adopted and the maternal grandparents wanted to adopt them, and that the court was considering termination. Further, adhering to a recommendation of guardianship based on the Department’s agreement with the parents would subordinate the children’s best interests and violate public policy. The court did not err by explicitly failing to advise mother of the consequences of submitting at the referral hearing.