Unpublished Active Efforts Case out of California


Though unpublished, this case addresses many of the issues surrounding active efforts, standards of evidence, 2015 Guidelines, and much of the frustration in child welfare.

For example, this is not active efforts:

Before the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, the Agency’s social worker, Sara Whitney, met with Amber while in custody at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility. The social worker discussed services available to Amber as a member of a Native American tribe and provided contact information for specific service providers.

Nor is this:

Shortly thereafter, Whitney spoke with the parenting coordinator at one of Southern Indian Health’s partners, who indicated she would follow up with Amber to help her obtain counseling. Whitney then followed up with Amber and provided her with contact information for the parenting coordinator, as well as additional referrals for residential drug treatment services.

This case also highlights the way each state manages to remove children using just different enough procedures:

This case highlights a gap between federal law and the manner in which California’s dependency proceedings are conducted. “[B]ecause the ‘ “critical decision[s] regarding parental rights … [and] that the minor cannot be returned home” ‘ [are] made at the earlier review hearing, the issues at the section 366.26 hearing are generally limited to the questions whether the child is adoptable and whether there is a statutory exception to adoption.” (In re Matthew Z. (2000) 80 Cal.App.4th 545, 552–553.) “[U]nlike the termination hearings in most states, the purpose of the final termination hearing in California ‘is not to accumulate further evidence of parental unfitness and danger to the child, but to begin the task of finding the child a permanent alternative family placement.’ “ (Ibid.)

to make implementing federal standards incredibly difficult, because of the state-by-state, and case-by-case, determinations in our dependency courts:

Amber concedes, however, that the new BIA Guidelines are “consistent with statutes and Rules of Court from this State” and also recognizes that the Guidelines are not binding authority. As we recently held “[e]ven in light of the new guidelines information, the general principle still applies[ ] that ‘[t]he adequacy of reunification plans and the reasonable of [the Agency’s] efforts are judged according to the circumstances of each case.’ “ (A.C., 239 Cal.App.4th at p. 657.)