Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Does IAnnotate this Case
L.P. and E.P. were half-siblings who lived with their maternal grandmother until her sudden death. The Department of Health & Welfare filed a petition for custody of the children under the Child Protection Act (CPA) and placed both children in the home of the Does, E.P.’s paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. The Department submitted a permanency plan identifying the goal of termination of parental rights and adoption by relative. Early in 2015, the magistrate court approved the permanency plan. After several months of tension between the Does and L.P., the Department acceded to the Does’ request that L.P. be removed from their home. The Department did not inform the magistrate court of the change in circumstances for several months. Following a trial on issues of neglect, abandonment, and consent, the magistrate entered an order terminating the parental rights to both children. The Department was designated as guardian of both children. The Does moved to intervene in the CPA case. The magistrate judge denied the motion. The court then entered an order prohibiting the Department from removing E.P. from the Does’ home without court approval. In early 2016, the Department filed a report and an expert’s sibling assessment that concluded the children should be placed together because of the strong attachment between them. In September 2016, the Department filed a post-termination permanency plan that requested a change in the permanency goal from adoption by relative to adoption by non-relative. Due to factual deficiencies, the magistrate judge rejected that amended permanency plan. In January 2017, the Department filed a second amended permanency plan that sought to move forward with adoption of both children by L.P.’s non-relative foster parents. After a comprehensive review of the case, the magistrate court rejected the amended permanency plan with regard to E.P. but approved it with regard to L.P., removed the Department as guardian of E.P., and appointed Jane Doe as E.P.’s guardian. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by disregarding the sibling placement priority and the Department’s primary role when considering the permanency plans. Furthermore, the Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by preventing the Department from removing E.P. from the Does’ home and terminating the Department's guardianship over E.P. All magistrate court orders with regard to E.P. were vacated, and on remand, this case was ordered to be assigned to a new magistrate judge for further proceedings.