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Name: In re Sabrina H.
Case #: D049249
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/20/2007

There was no bar to placement of minors outside the country where it is in the minors’ best interests. Mother appealed an order placing her dependent children with their paternal grandfather in Ensenada, Mexico. She contended that placement of children in a foreign country was contrary to the interests of dependency law and the court lacked jurisdiction to place the children in a Mexican residence without adequate background checks of the caregiver. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that there was no statutory bar to placement of minors outside the country where it is in their best interests. Although visitation is an important component of reunification, in border communities such as San Diego, placement in a neighboring country may actually provide shorter distances for the parent to travel than placement in another county or state. Prohibiting placement outside the country might also deprive children of being placed with relatives, which is contrary to the legislative goal of promoting placement with family members. Mother also argued that adequate background checks were not made. The appellate court agreed, and remanded for adequate background checks to be made. Mother also contended that the Department did not give her the requisite notice that it intended to detain the minors in Mexico, and did not make an adequate showing of good cause for detaining the children outside San Diego County. The appellate court found the issue waived, and any error harmless. Mother did not object to a lack of notice below, and therefore the issue is waived. Although the Department did not comply with the statutory notice requirements, the error was harmless in this case because no prejudice was shown. Finally, mother argued that the detention and placement orders were an abuse of the court’s discretion. The appellate court rejected that argument, finding that the court properly gave preferential consideration to placement with the paternal grandfather, who came forward and offered to care for all the children together.