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In re G.C.

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Butte

June 7, 2013

In re G.C., JR., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. BUTTE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
G.C., Defendant and Appellant.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Butte County No. J31399, Tamara l. Mosbarger, Judge.

Catherine C. Czar, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Bruce Alpert, County Counsel; and Kimberly Merrifield for Plaintiff and Respondent.

MURRAY, J.

In this case, we address the issue of whether a party, by not objecting in the trial court, forfeits an objection to the failure to follow procedures related to an alternative permanent plan for Indian children established by the Legislature -- tribal customary adoption -- which became operative on July 1, 2010. (Stats. 2009, ch. 287, § 12.)

Father, G.C., appeals a December 2011 order terminating his parental rights to the minor. He contends the juvenile court did not comply with Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.24[1] and ensure the minor’s Indian tribe considered the appropriateness of a tribal customary adoption. The Children’s Services Division of the Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services (the Department) initially conceded the claim, stating that because the social workers and the Indian child welfare expert did not address the issue of tribal customary adoption, the matter must be reversed and remanded to allow for proper consideration. We requested supplemental briefing. The Department now contends the issue is forfeited and any error was harmless. We agree.

We hold that to preserve claims related to the failure to follow the tribal customary adoption procedures, a parent must object on those grounds in the juvenile court. Here, father failed to object to those procedural errors. Further, any such errors were harmless here. Accordingly, we affirm the juvenile court’s order.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

These proceedings commenced in August 2004. In September 2004, the court found the minor was a dependent child as described by section 300, subdivision (b) because of parents’ ongoing drug use, father’s filthy home and father’s history of domestic violence. The minor was placed in a foster home with Cynthia N. in September 2004, where he has remained.

Mother is tribally affiliated; father is not. In March 2005, the Tyme Maidu Tribe, Berry Creek Rancheria (the Tribe) filed a notice of tribal intervention, in which it stated the minor is a member of or eligible for membership in the Tribe and is the child of a member of the Tribe.

In April 2005, prior to the combined disposition and six-month review hearing, the Tribe filed a “Tribal Resolution for Preferred Placement, ” which designated Cynthia N.’s home as a “Designated Indian Home” that met the Tribe’s “prevailing social and cultural standards and protects the best interests of Indian children.” In the resolution, the Tribe specifically noted the foster family “is an Indian Family[, ] therefore the Indian Child will stay connected to his tribe and culture and have his special needs met.” Father opposed this placement. Father wanted the minor to be placed with father’s relative. The juvenile court made dispositional findings and orders and set the case for a contested placement hearing.

The contested placement hearing was held in May 2005. During the hearing, the court determined the minor to be an Indian child within the meaning of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA; 25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.). As to placement, the court determined it was not in the minor’s best interest to deviate from the Tribal preference. Accordingly, the minor remained with Cynthia N.

Reunification services for both parents were terminated at the 12-month review hearing in October 2005, and the matter was set for a section 366.26 hearing.

The selection and implementation report for the February 2006 section 366.26 hearing indicated Cynthia N. preferred a permanent plan of adoption, but was willing to defer to the wishes of the Tribe. The Department recommended a permanent plan of guardianship, with Cynthia N. being declared the legal guardian. This plan was consistent with the Tribe’s preference at that time as reflected in the selection and implementation report and the Indian child welfare expert’s ...


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