In a case stemming from the handling of a Los Angeles County teen, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that child welfare officials can remove an incorrigible child from a home even if the parents have acted responsibly and done what they can to address the problems.
DCFS Remove 17-Year-Old From Mother’s Custody
The unanimous ruling upholds a 2015 decision by the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, which said the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services acted properly in removing a then-17-year-old girl from her mother’s custody — despite the lack of any wrongdoing by the mother.
Mother Reached Out To DCFS And Police For Help
According to court papers, the girl began running away from home at age 14, falsely reported that her mother had abused her, gave birth to a daughter at age 15 and had a second child a few years later. Her mother eventually reached out to law enforcement and DCFS for help, and then arranged for the teen to live with her maternal grandparents. The teen, however, continued to suffer from “anger management issues,” at one point hurling a chair at her grandmother.
Mother Not To Blame For “Incorrigible Behavior”
In February 2014, DCFS filed a petition to have the teen named a dependent of the Juvenile Court, which was approved, the ruling states. The teen was moved into foster care, but was ultimately placed back with her grandparents, prompting the girl’s mother to take legal action.
In supporting the county’s actions, the Supreme Court noted that the teen’s mother was not to blame for the girl’s “incorrigible behavior.”
“Behavior The Mother Simply Could Not Control”
” … the record reveals her (the mother’s) concerted, and at times desperate, efforts to protect and discipline (the teen),” according to the ruling.
The court ruled, however, that despite the mother’s efforts, the county was still justified in removing the child, with the teen facing “an ongoing risk of harm based on her increasingly self-destructive behavior, behavior that mother simply could not control.”
Teen Faced Substantial Risk Of Harm
“Whether it was (the teen’s) misbehavior and disobedience, or mother’s inability to supervise or protect (the teen), that initiated this cyclical pattern of conflict, does not matter here,” according to the ruling. “The basis for jurisdiction under (state law) is whether the child is at `substantial risk’ of `serious physical harm or illness.’
In that regard, given the substantial risk of harm that (the teen) faced, there is little question that mother was unable to `adequately’ supervise or protect (the teen) as required under (law).”
“We In No Way Pass Judgement On Mother”
The court noted that in reaching its conclusion, “we in no way pass judgment on mother’s inability to control (the teen’s) incorrigible behavior. … However, when that child’s behavior places her at substantial risk of serious physical harm, and a parent is unable to protect or supervise that child, the juvenile court’s assertion of jurisdiction is authorized under (state law).”
City News Service.
Photo By:Sascha Burkard