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Name: San Joaquin Human Services v. Superior Crt. (M.E.)
Case #: C076308
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/20/2014
Summary

The juvenile court erred when it extended reunification services beyond the six-month limit without making specific findings that additional services were in the minor’s best interest. Minor was removed from mother due to neglect and because mother was developmentally delayed and unable to care for the minor without support. Mother was also in an incestuous relationship with her biological father, who had encouraged her to engage in prostitution, which resulted in the minor’s conception. The juvenile court found jurisdiction, ordered reunification services for mother, and ordered a psychological evaluation. Two evaluating psychologists found that mother would not be capable of safely parenting the minor. The juvenile court, however, ordered an additional six months of services, citing the lapse of time between the first and second evaluations. The Department petitioned for a writ of mandate. The appellate court granted the petition. To extend services beyond the six-month review date where the minor is under the age of 3, the court must make specific factual findings that services are in the minor’s best interest and that the child may be returned within the extended time period. Here, the trial court did not make those findings, and there was no evidence to support them. The lapse of time before the second evaluation did not amount to a lack of reasonable services. Therefore, the continuation of services was an abuse of discretion.