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V.S. v. Allenby

December 22, 2008

V.S. ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
CLIFF ALLENBY, AS INTERIM DIRECTOR, ETC., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Dzintra Janavs, Judge. Reversed and remanded with directions. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BS097089).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Woods, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

SUMMARY

The appellants successfully pursued an administrative and ordinary mandamus action for benefits beyond an initial 180-day period pursuant to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care (AFDC-FC) program while their great nieces and nephew were in their care. They had also sought an ordinary writ of mandate compelling Cliff Allenby, Interim Director of the Department of Social Services (DSS) at the time, to direct DSS's agents to take action pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 16507.6 within 180 days so that others similarly situated would not lose entitlement to federal foster case funding for children in voluntary placement. Because we agree that the trial court should have expanded its ruling to mandate DSS compliance with the law, we reverse.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SYNOPSIS

V.S. and J.S. are the great aunt and great uncle of siblings R.R., E.J. and C.J. On July 9, 2003, J.J. (the children's mother) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) signed a Voluntary Placement Agreement authorizing DCFS to place the children with the great aunt and great uncle for 180 days while the mother completed a drug rehabilitation program.*fn1 The children were found eligible and approved to receive federal financial participation funding.

On January 14, 2004, DCFS filed a petition requesting detention of the children after determining the mother had failed to complete the required rehabilitation program. That petition was granted.

In a Notice of Action dated April 2 and sent to the mother (but not the great aunt and great uncle), DCFS stated that the request for AFDC-FC payments for the children was denied effective April 1 because J.J. failed to meet all eligibility requirements for federal financial participation in AFDC-FC. The "specific requirement not met" was as follows: "There was no [j]udicial determination regarding the child[ren']s best interest within 180 days of the date of placement with regards to the voluntary agreement."

For a child placed with a relative, foster care payments may only be made if there is federal financial participation in the payment. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11402, subd. (a).) Federal foster care benefits are limited to a maximum of 180 days unless there is a court finding made within this time period that continued placement is in the child's best interest. (42 U.S.C., § 672(e).) The placing agency "shall make any and all reasonable and necessary provisions for the care . . . and support of the minor . . . ." (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 16507.5, subd. (a).)

Welfare and Institutions Code section 16507.6 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

"(a) If a minor has been voluntarily placed with the county welfare department subsequent to January 1, 1982, for out-of-home placement by his or her parents or guardians pursuant to this chapter and the minor has remained out of their physical custody for six consecutive months, the department shall do one of the following:

"(1) Return the minor to the physical custody of his or her parents or guardians.

"(2) Refer the minor to a licensed adoption agency for consideration of adoptive planning and receipt of a permanent relinquishment of care and custody rights from the parents pursuant to Section 8700 of the Family Code.

"(3) Apply for a petition pursuant to Section 332 and file the petition with the juvenile court to have the minor declared a dependent ...


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