Placement and Permanency Planning


happy-family"Recent brain research has shown that infancy and early childhood are critical periods during which the foundations for trust, self-esteem, conscience, empathy, problem solving, focused learning, and impulse control are laid down.7–15 Because multiple factors (e.g. an adverse prenatal environment, parental depression or stress, drug exposure, malnutrition, neglect, abuse, or physical or emotional trauma) can negatively impact a child’s subsequent development, it is essential that all children, but especially young children, are able to live in a nurturing, supportive, and stimulating environment. "

PEDIATRICS Vol. 109 No. 3 March 1, 2002, Health Care of Young Children in Foster Care, pp. 536-541.

All placement decisions for all children must respect and protect a child’s psychological and development needs and focus on promoting secure relationships and continuity in out-of-home care.

"Professionals working with young children, policy-makers and caregivers should be aware that an accumulation of caregiver separations/losses, irrespective of violence and other traumatic exposure, may have detrimental effects on young children especially in the context of prior separations/losses or disruptions in their lives."  - Briggs-Gowan, Margaret J., et al. "Adverse impact of multiple separations or loss of primary caregivers on young children," European Journal of Psychotraumatology (August 2019)

Minimizing the number of foster care placements should be a priority in every child's case. However, in some situations, a change in foster care placement might be considered or necessary. This discussion guide put out by the Nebraska Resource Project for Vulnerable Young Children assists professionals in considering all factors relevant in determining whether a change in placement is in the child's best interest.  For more resources, please visit their website.


Child Psychology Driving Placement Policies In The Law - The Best Interests of the Child:  The Least Detrimental Alternative

Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973) was the first major treatise to address children and the law, focusing on the child’s psychological needs. First published over thirty years ago, the principles and guidelines espoused in this book and its two sequels, Before the Best Interests of the Child (1979) and In the Best Interests of the Child (1983), became the standard for assessing and deciding child placement issues for children caught up in the legal system, be it in a dependency case, a delinquency case, or a child custody dispute. The trilogy edition, The Best Interests of the Child: The Least Detrimental Alternative, was published in 1996.

The Definition of Child Placement:

"Child Placement, for our purposes, is a term that encompasses all legislative, judicial, and executive decisions concerned with establishing, administering, or rearranging parent-child relationships."

Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child: The Least Detrimental Alternative (The Free Press 1996) (hereinafter Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child), p. 6.


The Ideological Foundation:

"Once the state intervenes it must put the child’s interests first, over and above that of even the most ‘deserving’ of parents. Placement of a child must never be used to compensate an adult who has suffered misfortune or injury or injustice at the hands of another adult or the state; otherwise respect for the blood tie can only too easily be turned against the child’s interests...

Having intervened, it is the obligation of the state to provide for the child, with all deliberate speed, a safe and secure place in a family in which she feels wanted and which holds the promise of providing her with continuity of affectionate care and safety...

First, we believe that the law should make the children’s needs paramount.

Second, we have a preference for maintaining family integrity for the child...

Unlike adults, children have no psychological conception of blood-tie relationships until quite late in their development... What matters to them is the pattern of day-to-day interchanges with the adults who take care of them and who, on the strength of such interactions, become the parent figures to whom they are attached."

Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child, pp. xv, 7, 9.


Child Placement Principles

"Placement Decisions Should Safeguard the Child’s Need for Continuity of Relationships. Continuity of relationships is essential for a child’s healthy development...

For young children (those under the age of five years), disruptions of continuity also affect those achievements that are rooted and develop in the intimate interchange with a caregiver who is, or is in the process of becoming the psychological parent... For school-age children, the breaks in their relationships with their psychological parents affect above all those cognitive and social achievements that are based significantly on their identifications with the parents’ demands, prohibitions, and social ideals...Adolescents frequently convey the idea that they desire to discontinue relationships with their parents rather than to preserve them. This impression may be misleading. . . . Their revolt against parental authority is often developmentally normal; it may be their way of moving toward establishing independence. But for a successful outcome it is important that the breaks and disruptions of attachment come exclusively from the child’s side and not be imposed on her by abandonment or rejection by the psychological parent…When ‘temporary’ placements become long-term, for whatever reason, familial bonds that are developing between the foster child and her caregivers should be protected."

Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child, pp. xv, 7, 9.

"Placement Decisions Should Reflect the Child’s Sense of Time.

Decisions about care and placement must be made in accordance with the child’s sense of time. Children cannot wait beyond their developmental tolerances – which gradually increase as a child gets older – without their well-being and future development being placed at risk...

Emotionally and intellectually, an infant or toddler cannot stretch her waiting more than a few days without feeling overwhelmed by the absence of her parents. She cannot take care of herself physically, and her emotional and intellectual memory has not matured sufficiently to enable her to hold on mentally to the parent she has ‘lost.’ During such an absence, the child under two years of age ‘quickly’ latches onto the new adult who cares for the child’s needs. For children under age of five years, an absence of parents for more than two months is intolerable. For the younger school-age child, an absence of six months or more may be similarly experienced. More than a year of being without parents and without evidence that there are parental concerns and expectations is not likely to be understood by the older school-age child and will carry with it the detrimental implications of the breaches in continuity we have already described. After adolescence is fully launched, an individual’s sense of time closely approaches that of most adults...

Application of the child’s-sense-of-time guideline would require a shift of focus to the individual child’s tolerance of absence and sense of abandonment... The time factor varies with a child’s maturity at the time of separation...

For the purposes of declaring a child eligible for adoption or of acknowledging the existence of a common-law adoptive relationship...It would be that time when the child, having felt helpless and abandoned, has reached out to establish a new relationship with an adult who is to become or has already become her psychological parent."

Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child, pp. xv, 7, 9.

"Placement Decisions Should Take Into Account the Law’s Incapacity to Make Long-range Predictions and to Manage Family Relationships...

Though obvious once said, when left unsaid the limitations of law often go unacknowledged in discussions about child placement. . . . It may be able to undermine human relationships but it does not have the power to compel them to develop. It has neither the sensitivity nor the resources to maintain or supervise ongoing day-to-day happenings between parent and child. Nor does it have the capacity to predict future events and needs. . . . It is precisely because human relationships are complicated that courts and administrative agencies must have simple guidelines which will lead to an immediate and unequivocal restoration of family integrity as each child is placed."

Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child, pp. xv, 7, 9.

"Placements Should Provide the Least Detrimental Available Alternative for Safeguarding the Child’s Growth and Development.

The use of ‘least detrimental’ rather than ‘best interests’ is intended to enable legislatures, courts, and child care agencies to recognize the detriment that is already present in every child placement decision. A child whose placement must be determined in legal controversy has already been deprived of her ‘best interests.’"

"By the time there has been a need for the state to intervene, there is no ideal solution for the child, only one that is least harmful...In some instances this arrangement may necessitate leaving (or reuniting) the child with admittedly less than ideal parents because the alternative is intolerable delay or a placement that is no better and may even turn out to be worse."

Goldstein et al., The Best Interests of the Child, pp. xv, 7, 9.


These Principles Have Been Incorporated Into Dependency Law

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, Public Law 96-272, 42 USC §§670–679c, introduced time lines that supported the child’s sense of time and responded to the pervasive problem of foster care "drift." California’s SB14, enacted in 1982, incorporated these principles.

The passage in 1987 of SB 243 in California enacted the dependency protocol we have today that begins with the filing of a dependency petition and leads to a permanent plan selection and implementation hearing that includes termination of parental rights and a plan of adoption as an option.

The Adoptions and Safe Families Act 1997, Public Law 105-89, 42 USC §671, was passed in response to concern that previous practice overemphasized family preservation to the detriment of child safety. The law clarified that it is the child’s health and safety that is the critical factor in decisions to remove a child from a home or to return a child to a home. This act also introduced the federal requirement that a petition to terminate parental rights be filed if the child has been in foster care 15 out of the most recent 22 months, again supporting a child’s sense of time and the psychological urgency of a stable and permanent family.

Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, the original book in The Best Interests of the Child trilogy, was first cited by the California Supreme Court in In re B.G. (1974) 11 Cal.3d 679, 692-693 (see Attachment on this website for further details). The books have been cited in at least fourteen subsequent California Courts of Appeal decisions. For example:

In re Angelina P. (1981) 28 Cal.3d. 908, 916-917.
"In theory, the evolving ‘parental preference’ and ‘child’s best interests’ standards do not necessarily conflict. As one commentator has noted, ‘In general, children’s needs are best met by helping parents achieve their interests. In some situations, however, there may be a conflict of interests. . . In these situations, the legal system should protect the child’s interests. Not only is the child a helpless party but the parents should suffer the consequences of their inadequacy rather than the child.’ (Wald, State Intervention on Behalf of "Neglected" Children: Standards for Removal of Children from Their Homes, Monitoring the Status of Children in Foster Care, and Termination of Parental Rights (1976) 28 Stan.L.Rev. 625, fn. omitted; Yale Comment at pp. 155-156; see Goldstein et al., Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973) pp. 53-54. [recommending "‘the least detrimental available alternative for safeguarding the child’s growth and development’" as a standard on the ground that the "best interest test" too often subordinates the child’s interests to those of various adult claimants].)"

In re Autumn H. (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 567, 575.
"Interaction between natural parent and child will always confer some incidental benefit to the child. The significant attachment from child to parent results from the adult’s attention to the child’s needs for physical care, nourishment, comfort, affection and stimulation. (See Goldstein et al., Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973) p. 17.) The relationship arises from day-to-day interaction, companionship and shared experiences. (Id. at p. 19.)"

In re Joshua M. (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 458, 475.
"Although the goal of the juvenile law is to reunite children with their parents whenever possible, this reunification must be accomplished within 18 months from the time the child is originally taken from his or her parents’ custody. (§ 366.25, subd. (a).) This strict time frame, in turn, is a recognition that a child’s needs for a permanent and stable home cannot be postponed for an extended period without significant detriment. (See § 352; 1 Goldstein, Freud and Solnit, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, pp. 42-43;)."

Note also Welf. & Inst. Code §352(a) chaptered in 1982: "In considering the minor’s interests, the court shall give substantial weight to a minor’s need for prompt resolution of his or her custody status, the need to provide children with stable environments, and the damage to a minor of prolonged temporary placements."


Current Research Recognizes That Safe And Healthy Child Development Requires Stable Placement And Timely Permanency

Current Psychological Research On Foster Care Placements

"We have learned through research and study of human development that to evolve into a psychologically healthy human being, a child must have a relationship with at least one adult who is nurturing, protective, and fosters trust and security. We also know that optimal child development occurs when the spectrum of needs are consistently met over an extended period. When healthy attachment occurs, it forms the basis for all other long-term relationships between the child and other persons.

We also know that having this connection with an adult who is devoted to and loves a child unconditionally is key to helping a child overcome the stress and trauma of abuse and neglect. However, the reality is that children in foster care, who have been victims of abuse and neglect move — a lot. When this day-to-day consistency is lost, the emotional consequences of multiple placements or disruptions further impacts the child’s ability to trust and love. Repeated moves compound the adverse consequences that stress and inadequate parenting have on the child’s development and ability to cope...
More than ever before in the history of child welfare practice — the emphasis is on maintaining or creating permanent relationships and connections between children and caring adults...

[S]pecific barriers that interfere with placement stability . . .

  • Lack of sound assessment tool and uniform approach to child assessment.
  • General lack of resource families.
  • Selecting homes based on availability not skill level of resource family.
  • Lack of understanding amongst line staff, community based providers and caregivers about the importance of permanence and permanent relationships in the life of a child. [Emphasis added.]
  • Lack of medical insurance when the child returns home to support ongoing mental health services for the child and family.
  • Difficulty coordinating educational services with the rest of the service system – sometimes it is the educational needs of the child that force a move.
  • Insufficient caregiver training and skill level in caring for older children with behavioral health needs – this results in families taking children for whom they are ill equipped to provide care.
  • Caregivers with unrealistic expectations about the children placed in their homes.
  • Infrequent contact between caregivers and case managers – resulting in caregivers leaving the system due to lack of support.
  • Inadequate support services to care givers such as respite, intensive in-home, housing assistance, substance abuse services.
  • Overloading care givers by placing too many children in the home.
  • The current licensing process does not always effectively develop homes that are prepared for the types of children who enter state custody.
  • Inadequate reimbursement rates.
  • Inconsistent practice of concurrent planning including rigorous search for relative caregivers early in the process.
  • Changes in a child’s level of care resulting in a forced move."

Lutz, Achieving Permanence for Children in the Child Welfare System: Pioneering Possibilities Amidst Daunting Challenges, The National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning at Hunter College School of Social Work, A Service for the Children’s Bureau, November 2003, pp. 4, 5, 12.


Current Neuroscience Research On Foster Care Placements

"The basic principles of neuroscience indicate the need for a far greater sense of urgency regarding the prompt resolution of such decisions
as to when to remove a child from the home, when and where to place a child in foster care, when to terminate parental rights, and when to move towards a permanent placement. The window of opportunity for remediation in a child’s developing brain architecture is time-sensitive and time-limited."

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture: Working Paper No. 5, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2007,


Current Research on Permanency Planning in Foster Care

"Across the United States, Canada, and Western Europe there is the growing recognition that permanent plans for children are essential for their social, emotional, and cognitive development (Leathers, 2002). Children who are in the Child Welfare Services system and experience multiple moves are at increased risks for poor outcomes in academic achievement, socio-emotional health, developing insecure attachments, and distress due to the instability and uncertainty that comes with not having a stable family environment (Gauthier, Fortin, & Jeliu, 2004).

One way of lessening the occurrence of children’s displacements is permanency planning. The purpose of permanency planning is to develop and implement methods that increase the likelihood that children move out of substitute care into permanent family homes as quickly as possible...
While there is no single universally accepted definition for permanency planning, Fein, Maluccio, Hamilton, and Ward (1983) define permanency planning as, – a philosophy highlighting the value of rearing children in a family setting, preferably their biological families, [and] a theoretical framework stressing the stability and continuity of relationships to promote children’s growth and functioning (p. 497). While this definition highlights the importance of placement stability for children’s positive development and well-being, the federal definition of placement stability is, – all children who have been in foster care less than twelve months from the time of the latest removal, 86.7% or more children had no more than two placement settings. Both of these definitions recognize that permanency planning is a policy, philosophy, and a technique created to return every child who enters foster care to the stability of a family as quickly as possible...

An important concern of experiencing placement instability, especially for young children, is that the stress of being moved is related to physiological changes in the brain. Placement disruptions can increase stress-induced related responses and create alterations in the brain. There is evidence that the rates for atypical hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity are higher for foster children than the general population...

[A] recent study specifically looked at the impact that the number of placements exerts on HPA axis activity for children in foster care (Fisher, Gunnar, Dozier, Bruce, & Pears, 2006). The evidence suggested that disruptions in care altered the HPA axis due to receiving inconsistent, insensitive care and/or frequent transitions in caregivers (Fisher et al., 2006)."

Northern California Training Academy, A Literature Review of Placement Stability in Child Welfare Service: Issues, Concerns, Outcomes and Future Directions, The Center for Human Services at The University of California, Davis, Extension, August 2008, pp.3, 4-5.


A Judge's Guide To Placement Decisions

"Very young children develop within the context of their primary relationships. They are hurt and healed within that context. Science teaches us that the quality and reliability of those first relationships forms the actual physical architecture of the baby’s brain. Since first relationships are primary, we must take a relational approach to case planning or infants and toddlers, by helping parents learn how to have a reciprocal loving relationship with their child. Since first relationships are primary, we must not allow multiple placements of infants and toddlers and find more permanent placements sooner. Since first relationships are primary, we must reframe visitation. Visitation should be a therapeutic opportunity to promote, enhance, and shape the bond between parent and child and not just a "right" of the parent to spend time with the child."

As a judge, you can guard the mental health of very young children by making sure that:

  • placement decisions are made wisely at the outset that promote long-term stability and healthy child-caregiver attachments,
  • ties are maintained with birth parents and siblings through frequent quality visits, and
  • permanency decisions respect the bonds children have forged in out-of-home care."

Ensure placements provide long-term stability and promote healthy attachments.

  • Stable placements with loving adults and predictable nurturing routines promote healthy attachments for very young children. By the time child protective services (CPS) intervenes, these essentials are likely to be lacking.
  • [T]he child needs to be protected from multiple moves between caregivers. To do this, extended family members need to be identified as close to the removal as possible, ideally before the child is removed. Ask caseworkers to describe efforts to identify extended family caregivers in the first week after the case comes to them.
  • In the event that extended family members are not available or not appropriate as caregivers at the time of removal, a foster-to-adopt home should be selected. However, foster parents need special training to understand their dual roles as coach to the parents when reunification is the permanency goal, and as adoptive parents if the biological parents are not able to overcome the problems that led them into the child welfare system.
  • Make sure all parties understand that placement decisions are being closely examined and any changes in placement will be reviewed in court.
  • Also ensure concurrent permanency planning begins on day one to engage both parents and other potential permanency resources in supporting the child’s healthy development.

ABA Center on Children and the Law with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and
Zero to Three National Policy Center, Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Futures: A Judge’s Guide, 2009 (Chiamulera, ed.), pp. vii, 58, 63, 65.


Statutes Regarding the Crucial Oversight Responsibility of the Juvenile Court

All out-of-home placements are made by order of the juvenile court and subject to review by the juvenile court:

At Detention:  "If the child is not released from custody, the court may order that the child shall be placed in the assessed home of a relative, in an emergency shelter or other suitable licensed place, in a place exempt from licensure designated by the juvenile court, or in the assessed home of a nonrelative extended family member. . . ."  Welfare and Institutions Code § 319(f)

At Disposition:  "When the court orders removal . . . the court shall order the care, custody, control, and conduct of the child to be under the supervision of the social worker who may place the child . . . ."  Welfare and Institutions Code § 361.2(e)  

At Review Hearings:  "The court shall consider the safety of the child and shall determine all of the following: (A) The continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the placement."  Welfare and Institutions Code § 366 (a)(1)(A)

After Termination of Parental Rights:  "The court . . . may designate a current caretaker as a prospective adoptive parent ...[and] the child may not be removed from the home of the designated prospective adoptive parent unless the court finds that removal is in the child’s best interest."  Welfare and Institutions Code § 366.26(n)(3)(B)


Applicable Statutes And Regulations

Welfare and Institutions Code § 361.2 (placement upon removal)
(e) When the court orders removal pursuant to Section 361, the court shall order the care, custody, control, and conduct of the child to be under the supervision of the social worker who may place the child in any of the following:

(1) The home of a noncustodial parent as described in subdivision (a).

(2) The approved home of a relative.

(3) The approved home of a nonrelative extended family member as defined in Section 362.7.

(4) A foster home in which the child has been placed before an interruption in foster care, if the placement is in the best interest of the child and space is available.

(5) A suitable licensed community care facility.

(6) With a foster family agency to be placed in a suit able licensed foster family home or certified family home which has been certified by the agency as meeting licensing standards.

(7) A home or facility in accordance with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

(8) A child under the age of six years may be placed in a community care facility licensed as a group home for children, or a temporary shelter care facility as defined in Section 1530.8 of the Health and Safety Code, only under any of the following circumstances:

(A) When a case plan indicates that placement is for purposes of providing specialized treatment to the child... The specialized treatment period shall not exceed 120 days...

(B) When a case plan indicates that placement is for purposes of providing family reunification services...

(j)(1) When an agency has placed a child...the agency shall ensure placement of the

child in a home that, to the fullest extent possible, best meets the day-to-day needs of the child. A home that best meets the day-to-day needs of the child shall satisfy all of the following criteria:

(A) The child’s caregiver is able to meet the day-to-day health, safety, and well-being needs of the child.

(B) The child’s caregiver is permitted to maintain the least restrictive and most family-like environment that serves the day-to-day needs of the child.

(C) The child is permitted to engage in reasonable, age-appropriate day-to-day activities that promote the most family-like environment for the foster child.


California Department of Social Services Manual of Policies and Procedures

Child Welfare Services Regulations, Chapter 31-400 Placement

31-405 Social Worker Responsibilities for Placement
.1 When arranging for a child’s placement the social worker shall:

(j) Arrange for preplacement visitation between the child and the out-of-home care provider, if possible.

(k) Assist each child to maintain his/her cultural and ethnic identity.

(l) Monitor the child’s physical and emotional condition and take necessary actions to safeguard the child’s growth and development while in placement.

(m) Ensure that information regarding available CHDP services is provided to the out-of-home care provider within 30 days of the date of placement.

(n) Ensure that the child receives medical and dental care which places attention on preventive health services through the Child Health and Disability Prevention (CHDP) program, or equivalent preventive health services in accordance with the CHDP program’s schedule for periodic health assessment.

(1) Each child in placement shall receive a medical and dental examination, preferably prior to, but not later than, 30 calendar days after placement.

(o) Make certain that arrangements for, and monitoring of the child’s educational progress while in placement are undertaken.

(p) Make arrangements for the out-of-home care provider to have telephone access to a social worker 24 hours a day, seven days a week in case of emergencies involving his/her foster child(ren).

(q) Ensure that the out-of-home care provider understands and supports the child’s care plan, and is aware of any change(s) thereto.

(r) Provide the out-of-home care provider the child’s case plan that identifies the child’s needs and services.

(s) Provide the out-of-home care provider the child’s background information as available, including but not limited to, the following histories:

(1) Educational.

(2) Medical.

(3) Placement.

(4) Family.

(5) Behavioral.

(t) Provide the out-of-home care provider(s) information of any known or suspected dangerous behavior of the child being placed.

(1) The social worker shall document in the case record any information provided to the out-of-home care provider(s) regarding the child’s known or suspected dangerous behavior, including the following:

(a) Date information was provided.

(b) Name of person receiving information.

(c) Specific facts provided.

(d) Affirmation that the person informed was advised that the facts were confidential and that unauthorized disclosure could result in a fine up to $1,000.

(u) Ensure completion of the documentation necessary to initiate ADFC-FC payments, as appropriate.

(v) Assist the parents to understand their rights and responsibilities while their child is in placement.

(w) Documents the reason(s) for the following, when applicable:

(1) The child’s transfer to another placement location.

(2) The child’s out-of-county or out-of-state placement.

31-420 Foster Care Placement
.1 The foster care placement shall be based on the following needs of the child including, but not limited to:

.11 The least restrictive, most family like environment.

.12 The child’s age, sex and cultural background, including racial or ethnic and religious identification.

.13 Planned parent/guardian-child contacts during the separation, and the specific actions to be taken by the parent(s)/guardian(s) which will facilitate reunification.

.14 Capability, willingness and ability of the caregiver to meet specific needs of the child, to facilitate family reunification, and provide the child’s permanency alternative, if necessary.

.15 Appropriateness of attempting to maintain the child in his/her current school.

.16 The child’s health and emotional factors.

.17 Anticipated special needs of the child, including but not limited to transportation, diet, medical and/or psychological care, clothing, recreation, and special education.

.18 The most appropriate placement selection.

31-425 Permanent Placement
.1 The permanent placement shall be based on the following needs of the child including, but not limited to:

.11 The degree of permanency of the available alternatives.

.12 The child’s age, sex and cultural background, including racial or ethnic and religious identification.

.13 Capability of a relative, the out-of-home care providers(s), adoptive parents(s), or guardian(s) to meet specific needs of the child.

.14 Appropriateness of attempting to maintain the child in his/her current school.

.15 The child’s health and emotional factors.

.16 Anticipated special needs of the child, including but not limited to, transportation, diet, medical and/or psychological care, clothing, recreation, and special education.


Applicable Case Law

In re Robert A. (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 174, 189-190.

While the Court can make a general placement order delegating care, custody, control and conduct of the child to the social worker who then makes a specific placement of the child per §361.2(e), the court has a continuing duty to ensure that the placement made is suitable and in the child’s best interest: " . . . [O]nce the court has placed the custody of the minor under the supervision of the [social worker], the court retains jurisdiction to oversee the administration by the Department . . . of the custody and care of the child. Although the court does not make a direct placement order itself, it does have the power to instruct the Department to make a particular out-of-home placement of a particular dependent child. As an arm of the court, the Department is naturally interested in following the instructions of the court and carrying out its wishes, consistent with the exercise of its own expertise in the area, on which the court depends for guidance. As a party in the case, the Department remains subject to the juvenile court’s orders. Thus, where a judicial decision such as out-of-home placement is required, the authority of the Department to implement that order must necessarily be limited in particular situations, as required by the court’s interpretation of the best interests of the child. (§ 202, subd. (b).)" (Emphasis added.)


In re Tracy X. (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 1460.

If parents want to raise issues concerning placement, they should do so when the foster care placement is first made.
There are placement preference requirements for foster care placements, and foster placements often turn into adoptive placements; thus, the time to object is when the foster placement is first made.


Department of Social Services v. Superior Court (Siskiyou County Child Protective Services) (Theodore D.) (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 721, 724.
The legislature has granted the agency to which a minor is referred for adoption upon termination of parental rights (in this case a Department of Social Services), the “exclusive” custody, control and supervision of the child referred for adoptive placement. This exclusive agency authority includes “discretion” to place the minor in, and if necessary remove the minor from a prospective adoptive home or foster home. The juvenile court retains jurisdiction over the minor to ensure the adoption is completed as expeditiously as possible and to determine the “appropriateness of the placement.” The court may review the agency’s change in placement for abuse of discretion but may not substitute its independent judgment for that of the agency. Absent a showing that DSS’s placement decision is patently absurd or unquestionably not in the minor’s best interest, the court may not interfere and disapprove of the placement.


Cesar V. v. Superior Court (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 1023, 1036.
When a new placement must be made and a relative who qualifies for the relative placement preference applies for placement, “the juvenile court must exercise its independent judgment rather than merely review [the social services agency’s] placement decision for an abuse of discretion.” (Emphasis added.) This applies even when the agency has denied the relative placement.


Fresno County Dept. of Children and Family Services v. Superior Court (Lily G.) (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 626, 651.
"The Legislature has granted to the appropriate department or agency the exclusive, meaning sole, custody, control and supervision of a child referred for adoptive placement. [However], the department’s discretion regarding adoptive placement and interim foster care [post termination of parental rights] is not unfettered. The juvenile court still retains jurisdiction over the child until... the child is adopted to ensure the adoption is completed as expeditiously as possible and to determine the appropriateness of the placement." (Emphasis added.)


In re Shirley K. (2006) 14 Cal.App.4th 65, 68, 72
"[W]e hold that the court’s role in reviewing the Agency’s action for abuse of discretion was not as limited as the trial court concluded. The trial court, in reviewing a child’s placement after parental rights are terminated, must assess the Agency’s post-termination placement within the context of the child’s best interests... We reject the Agency’s view that the question before the trial court is ‘not what was best for the child, but rather whether the Agency had clearly abused its discretion in making its adoptive placement.’ The court ensures the Agency properly considers a child’s best interests when making a post-termination placement, particularly when the child is removed from a long term placement in which he or she has formed a strong and reciprocal bond with the caregiver. ‘ "When custody continues over a significant period, the child’s need for continuity and stability assumes an increasingly important role." ’ (Citations omitted.) Shirley had been in Grandparents care for 20 months, effectively her entire life. She had a compelling interest in remaining with the only family she had ever known and with whom she had a reciprocal bonded relationship of unconditional love and affection. (Citations omitted.) In addition, Shirley had a fundamental interest in a stable, permanent placement free from abuse and neglect.(Citations omitted.)”


T.W. v. Superior Court (San Diego Department of Health and Human Services) (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 30, 44-45
"In 2005, to strengthen the juvenile court’s oversight and to protect the stability of children after parental rights are terminated, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 218 (2005-2006 Reg. Sess.). (§ 366.26, subd. (n); Stats. 2005, ch. 626, eff. Jan. 1, 2006.) Section 366.26, subdivision (n) represents ‘a paradigm shift in the standards to be applied to agency decisions in the narrow category of post-termination removal of children from designated prospective adoptive placements and gives to the court the wide discretion previously afforded the adoption agencies to determine whether the placement is in the best interest of the child.’...The legislation was designed to correct the ‘"nearly complete, unchecked authority"’ appellate courts had given to a child welfare agency to decide a dependent child’s adoptive placement after termination of parental rights.

The juvenile court has the authority and responsibility to determine whether removal from the home of a prospective adoptive parent is in the child’s best interests. If a prospective adoptive parent objects to the child’s removal from the home, the Agency must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that removal from the prospective adoptive parent is in the child’s best interests...[T]he juvenile court determines whether the proposed removal of the child from the home is in the child’s best interests, and the child may not be removed from the home unless the court makes that finding." (Emphasis in the original.)


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