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Name: In re E.C., et al.
Case #: C097741
Opinion Date: 05/24/2024
Attorney: Jesse F. Rodriguez

Mother appealed from the juvenile court’s termination of her parental rights pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b)(1) and (g). The termination was based in part on the the “tender years presumption” that a finding of substance abuse is prima facie evidence of the inability of a parent or guardian to provide regular care resulting in a substantial risk of physical harm to a child of “tender years.”

While the appeal was pending, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re N.R. (2023) 15 Cal.5th 520, which disapproved the tender years presumption. The Court of Appeal accordingly held that the evidence did not support the finding that the minor was at risk due to mother’s substance abuse. The error was not harmless, as the secondary basis for sustaining the section 300 petition was also unsupported by the evidence. Because the juvenile court’s application of an incorrect legal standard prevented it from resolving factual disputes, the matter was reversed and remanded for a new hearing under the correct standard.