The Children’s Law Center recently won an important case on behalf of a non-minor dependent that clarifies the right of these vulnerable youth to re-enter foster care. The Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles denied a petition for re-entry to a youth, KG, because KG was under a Home of Placement Order (HPO) and living with her mother when jurisdiction was terminated. Due to the HPO, the superior court found that the youth could not re-enter because the court’s jurisdiction was terminated pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 364, instead of Welfare and Institutions Code section 391, which the court found was required for KG to possess re-entry eligibility.
The Court of Appeals reversed holding that KG should not have been returned to her mother in November 2012, because law at the time held that a parent was not legally allowed to reunify with a dependent after the age of 18 (statutory amendments that took effect in 2013 now allow a non-minor dependent to participate in family reunification). The court further held that prior to being returned to her mother, KG was a non-minor dependent, since she had an order for foster care placement when she turned 18 years old. Finally, the court ruled that even if KG had been properly returned to her mother’s home in November of 2012, she was still entitled to seek reentry, since the court erred in terminating under Welfare and Institutions Code section 364 as opposed to Welfare and Institutions Code section 391. This was an important win for non-minor dependents who require a continued safety net beyond the age of 18. KG’s unsuccessful reunification with her mother would have left her on the street without options were she unable to re-enter foster care. This case reinforces the vulnerability of non-minor dependents and their need for continued protection within the child welfare system, and the court’s decision clarifies the eligibility of every youth with an order for foster care placement on their 18th birthday to re-enter foster care.