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Name: In re N.M.
Case #: E032518
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 05/16/2003
Subsequent History: None

The minor in this case appealed the court order continuing reunification services to his parents beyond the 18 month maximum. The minor was 18 months old at the time of detention based on drug abuse by the parents. The parents had made progress during the first 16 months and the prognosis for returning the minor home was good. The minor had been returned to mother on a family maintenance plan at one point, but a subsequent 387 petition was filed and the minor was removed again. Then both parents were terminated from their drug programs and failed to submit for random testing. Neither parent was employed, and their home conditions were unsafe for the minor. The Department recommended terminating services and setting the matter for a 366.26 hearing. The court instead extended services for another six months. The appellate court here reversed the order. The juvenile court erred when it did not count the time the minor was in family maintenance with mother as a part of the 18 months. The 18-month period started at the time of the original detention, not when mother lost custody on the 387 petition. Although the court may extend reunification services beyond 18 months in rare instances where the best interests of the child warrant it, circumstances did not warrant it here. The circumstances of the parents’ relapse it was not a momentary lapse, but that their problems were deep-seated and recurrent.