California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division
In re JESSE S., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
JESSE S., Defendant and Appellant. ORANGE COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent,
from an order of the Superior Court of Orange County No.
16NP0059, Gary L. Moorhead, Judge. Affirmed.
F. Levine, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
J. Page, County Counsel, Karen L. Christensen and Aurelio
Torre, Deputies County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
BEDSWORTH, ACTING P. J.
an unusual case. It is unusual in the nature of the relief
sought and even more unusual in our inability to provide that
relief, even though we think it warranted. We publish our
opinion in the hope the Legislature will either change the
law or - by reconsidering it and leaving it unchanged -
reassure us that the present system is what they intended.
four months before his 20th birthday in 2016, appellant Jesse
S. filed, in propria persona, a request under section 388.1
of the Welfare and Institutions Code to return to
juvenile court jurisdiction and the foster care
system. His reason was that the couple who
adopted him the day before his 18th birthday were no longer
supporting him, even though they were receiving payments on
his behalf from California's Adoption Assistance Program
(AAP). (§ 16115 et seq.). The judge denied the request,
noting that under the literal language of section 388.1 the
very fact the couple were still receiving AAP payments on
Jesse's behalf precluded Jesse from reentry into the
juvenile dependency system.
affirm, though reluctantly. Jesse has pointed out an anomaly
in section 388.1 that the Legislature might want to address.
The trial judge read current section 388.1, subdivision
(a)(4), to mean exactly what it says: A nonminor between 18
and 21 is eligible for reentry into the juvenile dependency
and foster care system only if his or her adoptive parents no
longer provide ongoing support to that nonminor and
also no longer collect AAP benefits on behalf of that
minor. Since there was no question
Jesse's adoptive parents were still collecting adoption
assistance program payments on Jesse's behalf, the judge
was forced to conclude Jesse was not eligible for reentry
under the statute.
agree with Jesse's point that the Legislature probably
did not intend a former foster youth's reentry in the
dependency system to depend on the glacial bureaucratic
processes which govern termination of AAP payments to
adoptive parents no longer supporting adopted ex-foster care
youth. That said, while the literal application of the
statute may yield an anomalous and unintended result in cases
like Jesse's, those results are not so anomalous that we
can accept Jesse's invitation to invoke the common law
absurdity rule to delete what the Legislature plainly
included when it drafted section 388.1. (See Code Civ. Proc.,
§ 1858.) The problem requires a legislative fix if there
is to be one.
was born in late 1996. He entered the juvenile dependency
system at age 12. He and his younger brother and sister had
been living in a motel room when his biological parents
turned to drugs. The last time Jesse saw his natural mother
she was “behind a glass window in jail.”
age 16, Jesse was placed in a foster home with a couple who
adopted him the day before he turned 18. As a result of that
adoption, the couple began receiving payments through a state
program known as the Adoptive Assistance Program or AAP. (See
§ 16115 et seq.) In August 2015, Jesse moved out of
their home to go to college in San Francisco. That was the
last time he lived with his adoptive parents.
the circumstances of Jesse's last-minute adoption, the
appellate record reflects two very divergent points of view.
The adoptive parents say they were reluctant to adopt because
they thought Jesse might be able to access better services
without adoption. They say it was Jesse who insisted
they adopt him.
recalls it differently. He says he was “rushed and
pressured” into the adoption. From his standpoint -
that is, at least as he saw things at age 19 in August 2016
when he initiated this case - the adoption had been a bad
fit: “It seemed my adoptive parents were only capable
of manipulation and judging me. When I experienced any type
of failure or struggle, they would become angry and belittle
me and we didn't celebrate my successes.” He says
he felt too afraid to speak up about this during the period
leading to his adoption.
rate, an estrangement developed between Jesse and his
adoptive parents during the last year he lived with them - an
estrangement that worsened during his first semester of
college. According to his adoptive parents, Jesse was caught
smoking marijuana at home and failed subsequent drug tests.
His adoptive parents supplied him with a reliable car, but
Jesse totaled it when he had an accident while texting.
these peccadilloes, his adoptive parents were proud of
sending him off to college to study radio and television
production. But when they visited him in San Francisco his
first semester, they found he had changed. Jesse had acquired
a roommate who wasn't enrolled in college, and that
roommate had apparently been a bad influence on him. Jesse
had become “destructive and mean.” He had been
“asked to leave college.” He sent his adoptive
parents rude emails. They offered to provide therapy for him,
but he declined it, and they concluded he had “chemical
August 2016, the estrangement had reached the point where
Jesse preferred to be homeless rather than return to his
adoptive parents. However, he connected with a private
foundation that arranged to find him accommodation in a
private home, free of charge. The foundation also supplied
him with food, toiletries and clothing. According to Jesse,
his adoptive parents were “not providing any type of
meaningful support, ” but we must add that Jesse had
unilaterally severed any such support. He was working as a
busser and host at a Santa Ana restaurant and had some money
of his own. While his adoptive parents had supplied him with
a cell phone and were providing medical and dental insurance,
Jesse was using his own money to pay for another cell phone,
and he had also made arrangements to be covered on publicly
supplied medical and dental insurance under Medi-Cal and
August 9, 2016, Jesse filed a formal JV-468 request to return
to juvenile court jurisdiction and foster care. The trial
judge got to the human heart of the matter in the course of
the hearing held October 2016. He wanted to know whether
Jesse's adoptive parents would take him back. Jesse's
counsel said the possibility of his returning was never even