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Name: In re Miguel E.
Case #: D042403
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/08/2004
Subsequent History: 9/29/04: Revw. denied

The three minors were detained due to mother’s substance abuse and mental illness. They were placed with the maternal grandmother. The minors remained in grandmother’s care, which was described by the Department at the 18-month review hearing as “excellent.” A section 366.26 hearing was set when mother failed to reunify. Prior to the 366.26 hearing, the Department removed the minors when it discovered that grandmother had a prior history of abuse and neglect with her own children, and that her husband, the step-grandfather, suffered from a mental illness. Further, grandmother’s two daughters had moved in and the apartment became crowded and cluttered. The removal was difficult on the children and the children’s therapist described them as traumatized. The Department recommended trying to reunite the oldest child with his father and adoption for the younger two. A section 387 petition was sustained and the grandparents appealed. Their appeal was dismissed for lack of standing. Mother and the oldest child also appealed the removal of the minors. The appellate court found that the trial court erred when it removed the children. The Department does not have absolute authority to change a relative placement which has already been ordered by the court. The Department’s withdrawal of its approval of the grandparents’ home did not relieve the juvenile court of its duty to review the appropriateness of the placement. Further, the record lacks substantial evidence supporting the removal order. There was no evidence that the home was anything other than a secure and stable environment or that it presented a danger to the children. Reversal of the 387 findings and orders was required. Further, remand was required to determine whether ICWA applied to the middle child and for notice to be provided to the appropriate tribes.