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Name: Sara M. v. Tuolomne County
Case #: S129821
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/08/2005

Petitions were filed on behalf of the minors under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300(b) and (c). Due to mother’s substance abuse problems, she failed to visit the minors during the first six months of reunification. (Mother argued that the Department effectively prohibited her from visiting the minors, because she was not permitted to see them unless she was testing clean, which she was not.) The juvenile court terminated services at the six month review hearing and set a 366.26 hearing. In this writ, mother argued that 366.21(e) does not permit termination of services after six months due to a parent’s failure to contact or visit a child unless the child was originally removed due to abandonment. The appellate court agreed, and the Department petitioned for review. The California Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s opinion and remanded. Section 366.21(e) provides three separate situations which allow services to be terminated after six months: where the child was removed due to abandonment and the parent’s whereabouts are unknown; where the parent has failed to contact the child; or when a parent has been convicted of a felony which demonstrates unfitness. Further, sufficient evidence supported the trial court’s order terminating services and the implicit finding that reasonable services had been offered. The Department merely required mother be free of alcohol and drugs when she visited the children. Mother made no effort to visit the children when she was free of alcohol and drugs. J. Kennard and Moreno dissented, interpreting section 366.21(e) to only allow termination of services after six months where a parent has failed to contact the minor and the minor was made a dependent pursuant to section 300(g).