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Name: In re Nickolas T.
Case #: D063010
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/22/2013

Mother was properly denied placement of minor previously removed from his aunt’s custody for abuse, as mother witnessed the abuse yet insisted it had not occurred. Minor was voluntarily placed with the Mississippi Department of Human services in 1997 by his then 14-year-old mother. He was eventually placed with his maternal aunt, Faith. Years later, mother did not try to regain custody of minor and his siblings because he was happy with his Aunt Faith in California. In 2012, the minor was removed from his aunt due to physical abuse. The minor was placed in foster care with a non-related extended family member. He was happy in this placement and did not want to move to Mississippi to live with mother, who had requested placement as a previously noncustodial parent. The Agency filed a petition alleging physical abuse. Aunt Faith decided not to pursue reunification and asked for a termination of the guardianship. The juvenile court refused placement with Mother, finding it would not be in the minor’s best interest because he did not want to move to Mississippi, and also that mother continued to deny that there had been physical abuse. On appeal, mother argued that the Agency had the burden to prove that placement with her would have been detrimental, that the court erred by requiring her to prove that it was in the minor’s best interest to live with her, and that there was no evidence to show that placement with her would be detrimental to the minor. The appellate court affirmed the orders of the juvenile court. There was substantial evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding that placement with mother would be detrimental to the minor. The minor described ongoing abuse by his aunt, witnessed by his mother. Mother continued to deny that any physical abuse had occurred, and told a social worker that the minor was lying. The minor did not trust his mother to protect him. Further, he was 16 years old and did not want to leave San Diego and move to Mississippi.