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Name: In re V.C. (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 251
Case #: A166527
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/06/2023

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) section 224.2, subdivision (b) initial inquiry requirements apply when a minor is brought into custody pursuant to a warrant (section 340). Minors were removed from parents and parental rights were terminated in 2021. The termination was reversed on appeal and a new section 366.26 hearing was held in 2022 at which parental rights were again terminated. Parents appealed, raising the issue of the failure to comply with the initial inquiry requirements of ICWA. The reviewing court reversed, following the reasoning of In re Delila D. (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 953, that section 224.2, subdivision (b) is applicable regardless of whether the minor was initially removed pursuant to a warrant.

The Agency erred in failing to inquire of extended relatives and such error was not harmless under the standard set forth in Benjamin M. (2021) 70 Cal.App.5th 735. Under the Benjamin M. standard, error exists where the record demonstrates that the Agency has not only failed in its duty of initial inquiry but also, that there was readily obtainable information that was likely to bear meaningfully upon whether the child is an Indian child. Here, the Agency did not inquire of numerous extended family members who may have had information regarding the minors’ potential Indian ancestry. Thus, the order terminating parental rights is conditionally reversed and the matter remanded for the Agency to comply with ICWA.