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Name: In re N.V.
Case #: D057087
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/08/2010

Exclusion of evidence regarding the department’s finding that the grandmother’s home was an unsuitable placement was harmless error. When the minors were detained, the department declined to approve the maternal grandmother’s home for placement, citing four prior child welfare referrals, including two of which involved sexual abuse by others living in the home. Before the dispositional hearing, the grandmother moved to a new home, which the department had not yet approved. At the disposition hearing, the father sought to cross-examine the department about their reasons for refusing to approve the grandmother’s home. The department objected on relevance grounds, since the court had no authority to place the minors in a home which had not yet been approved. The objection was sustained, and the court ordered the children placed in foster care and set a hearing to address relative placement. On appeal, the mother argued that the juvenile court erred by excluding the evidence regarding refusal of the department to place the minors with the grandmother, and also by refusing to place the minors with grandmother. The appellate court held that the court abused its discretion when it excluded the evidence, but that the error did not require reversal. The grandmother’s home had not yet been inspected and the children could not have been placed with her regardless of her child-abuse history. Therefore the error in excluding the evidence was harmless.