In re Joshua A.Annotate this Case
Joshua was the 13-year-old son of Charlotte. In October 2014, Joshua was removed from his mother's care after she became intoxicated and scratched and pinched him. Police officers observed that Charlotte was "delirious" and "obviously intoxicated." Charlotte denied she had a drinking problem. The Agency filed a section 300 petition on Joshua's behalf. In its court report, the Agency detailed seven earlier referrals to child protective services concerning Joshua's safety, and Joshua's prior adjudication as a juvenile court dependent. When the dependency proceeding at issue here was initiated, the social worker asked Charlotte for placement options for Joshua. Charlotte identified her boyfriend Luis. Luis did not have any criminal or child protective history. Charlotte brought Luis with her to visit Joshua after he was detained. Joshua was happy to see his mother but was uncomfortable with Luis, asking the social worker if Luis was allowed to yell at him. Joshua later told the social worker he wanted some time away from his mother and hoped she would obtain treatment so she would not drink. He did not want to live with Luis. Charlotte challenged the finding that her boyfriend, Luis, did not qualify as a nonrelative extended family member (NREFM) for placement of her son Joshua. She contended the juvenile court erred as a matter of law when it ruled a parent is not a relative within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.3, subdivision (c)(2) for purposes of determining NREFM status. Charlotte also argued the juvenile court erred when it did not order the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) to evaluate Luis's home as a placement option for Joshua. The Agency agreed the juvenile court misinterpreted section 362.7 when it ruled Luis was not an NREFM. The Agency contended, however, the error was harmless because the juvenile court found it was not in Joshua's best interests to be placed with Luis, which would have disqualified the placement had the court correctly determined Luis's NREFM status. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the juvenile court erred as a matter of law when it ruled a parent was not a relative within the meaning of 361.3, subdivision (c)(2) for purposes of determining NREFM status within the meaning of section 362.7. However, the court did not abuse its discretion when it determined placement with Luis was not in Joshua's best interests. Because placement was not in Joshua's best interests notwithstanding Luis's status as an NREFM, the court was not required to direct the Agency to complete its evaluation of his home. The order was affirmed.