Court abused its discretion by ordering father who had custody of infant minor to take a parenting course where there was no evidence that it was necessary to protect the minor. Father had been involved in prior dependency proceedings in 2015. He reunified with, and was awarded custody of his three youngest children. During that dependency, he participated in a parenting education class. In 2019, DCFS received a referral that mother and the newborn minor, K.T., were living at a shelter and mother was using drugs. Mother identified father as the father of K.T. Two weeks later, DCFS removed K.T. and placed her in foster care. A petition was filed, and at the detention hearing father asked for placement of K.T. The court placed K.T. with her father, ordered services for both parents, and ordered father and the baby to reside with his adult daughter. Father had an extensive criminal history. The report prepared for jurisdiction/disposition informed the court that K.T. had continued to live with father. Although he had not cared for an infant in a long while, K.T. was doing well in his care. DCFS reported that father had all the necessities for the baby and noted no safety concerns. It recommended continued placement with father in his adult daughter’s home with family maintenance, including a court-ordered parenting program. DCFS subsequently filed an amended petition which alleged father’s criminal convictions and the fact that he was on probation. At the jurisdiction hearing on the amended petition, the court struck the allegations against father, finding him nonoffending. It removed K.T. from mother and placed her with father on family maintenance, to include a parenting education program. Father objected to that order because he had completed one in a prior dependency case in 2015. The court refused to change the order. On appeal, father contended that the juvenile court abused its discretion in ordering him to complete a parenting education program because substantial evidence did not warrant it. The appellate court agreed with father and reversed. The record contains uncontroverted evidence that after the baby was placed with father at the detention hearing, father provided appropriate care. His home was safe, he had the necessary supplies, he was meeting the baby’s needs, and he had a healthy and nurturing relationship with the baby. Further, he had already completed a formal parenting program. Another parenting program was not necessary to protect K.T. DCFS asserted that the order was necessary because of father’s criminal history, his prior dependency, and the fact he had not cared for a baby in many years. None of those reasons withstand scrutiny. Criminal history alone is not sufficient, father reunified with his children in the prior dependency, and father had been demonstrating since detention that he was caring for the baby very well.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B301285.PDF