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Name: In re N.A.
Case #: D077956
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/27/2021

The juvenile court properly denied a nonminor’s petition for reentry where she left her placement, and therefore become ineligible for foster care payments, prior to turning 18. N.A. became a dependent of the court at age 11. When she was 15, a permanent plan of legal guardianship was ordered. When N.A. was 17, her relationship with the guardian deteriorated. N.A. moved out and the guardian paid her rent at a different residence, but continued to report that N.A. lived with her. When N.A. moved in with her boyfriend, the guardian stopped assisting her financially. N.A. then petitioned to return to juvenile court jurisdiction which would provide her with services and financial aid under Welfare and Institutions Code section 388.1. The Agency determined N.A. and the guardian became ineligible for aid to families with dependent children-foster care (AFDC-FC) payments when N.A. moved out of the guardian’s home before turning 18. The juvenile court denied N.A.’s petition for reentry under section 388.1. N.A. appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the order. N.A.’s position was that she was eligible for assistance because the guardian received AFDC-FC payments on N.A.’s behalf after she turned 18. The Agency’s position, which the court found to be the correct one, was that a section 388.1 petitioner must have validly received AFDC-FC payments after turning 18. In this case, the payments made on N.A.’s behalf after she left the guardian’s home were improper and invalid overpayments, subject to collection. While the result is regrettable because it appears the Agency may not have fully advised N.A. of her options, the court did not err in denying N.A.’s petition under 388.1.

The juvenile court did not err when it declined to determine N.A.’s eligibility for AFDC-FC payments. N.A. further contended that the juvenile court should have decided whether she was eligible for AFDC-FC without requiring her to exhaust administrative remedies. Determining eligibility for AFDC-FC is a function that rests with the Agency. Judicial review of eligibility determinations is ordinarily limited to the consideration of a petition for writ of administrative mandate of the eligibility decision. The futility exception to the administrative exhaustion requirement applies only when the petitioner is able to state with assurance that the Agency would rule adversely in the petitioner’s case, which usually cannot be done when the issue has never been presented for hearing. Here, N.A. did not make an adequate showing of futility. Despite the Agency’s position that N.A. was not eligible, the administrative process may cause the Agency to review its determination of eligibility. Further, N.A. did not make an adequate showing of irreparable injury because if the Agency’s eligibility determination is found to be erroneous, the Agency can make corrective payments.