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Name: In re M.V.
Case #: A137348
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 05/05/2014

The juvenile court properly declared the minor a ward and dismissed dependency jurisdiction where it was clear the minor needed a more secure placement. A wardship petition was filed (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602), alleging that the minor, M.V., had agreed to engage in an act of prostitution. At the time, M.V. was a juvenile court dependent under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 based on her mother’s refusal to care for her due to her suicidal tendencies and aggressive behavior. The juvenile court ordered the preparation of a Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.1 report to help determine whether status as a ward under section 602 or a dependent under section 300 would be more suitable. The Social Services Department concluded that the minor should be adjudged a ward under section 602 because of the need for a more secure placement. It cited the minor’s history of absconding from her placements. The Probation Department agreed with the recommendation. The juvenile court followed the recommendation and dismissed dependency jurisdiction, adjudged the minor a ward, and ordered an out-of-home placement. The appellate court affirmed. When a minor qualifies as both a dependent and a ward, the probation and child welfare services agencies shall initially determine which status will serve the best interests of the minor and the protection of society. The juvenile court has broad discretion to determine which status will best serve those needs. Here, the court was aware of the minor’s history of sexual exploitation and considered it when it determined that a more secure placement was in her best interests. Further, M.V. had absconded from four different foster homes and a structured group home. The court did not abuse its discretion by determining that a more secure placement was needed.