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Name: In re T.M.
Case #: C059898
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/17/2009

Parental rights termination was improper where no reasonable services were provided. At the beginning of the dependency proceedings, the mother’s whereabouts were unknown, and thus no reunification services were ordered. Three months later, there was information that appellant was in a locked psychiatric facility. No case plan was developed. At the six-month review hearing, the court set a 366.26 hearing over appellant’s objection. Mother’s parental rights were subsequently terminated. On appeal, she argued that the order terminating parental rights had to be reversed because it violated the provisions of section 366.26, subdivision (c)(2)(A). The appellate court agreed and reversed. When appellant’s whereabouts became known, the fact should have been brought to the court’s attention so that services could have been ordered. DHHS was in possession of information which might have justified the denial of services, but did not raise the issue or seek an order denying services. Because the court neither terminated services after finding that reasonable services had been provided, nor properly denied them, it should have limited the scope of the 366.26 hearing to consideration of guardianship or long-term foster care. No opportunity to reunify was ever afforded appellant, nor did she have an opportunity to challenge the denial of services. Under these circumstances, termination of parental rights could not occur.