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§5.16 Placement With Relative or in Foster Care

If you order a dependent child removed from his or her legal custodian but do not place the child with the noncustodial parent, physical and legal custody reside with the social worker, subject to your supervision. [See WIC §361.2(e).] This is sometimes referred to as a “general placement order.” Subject to your orders, the social worker may place the child in:


Placement with a relative is favored. If this option is not chosen, you must state reasons on the record why it was denied. [WIC §361.3(e); see WIC §16501.1(c).] Preferential consideration for placement with a relative does not create a presumption in favor of that placement, but ensures that the relative's application will be considered before that of a stranger. [Alicia B. v Superior Court (2004) 116 CA4th 856, 863.]

If a child’s current foster care placement suddenly becomes unavailable, you may again consider temporary placement with a relative or nonrelative extended family member, pending resolution of the emergency situation, on approved assessment of the home by the county welfare department.  [WIC §361.45.]

The social worker must comply with WIC §361.4 before a child is placed with a relative. Section 361.4 requires a criminal background check and a Child Abuse Central Index check of all adults living in the caretaker’s home if the caretaker is not a licensed foster care provider. [LA County DCFS v Superior Court (Sencere P.) (2005) 126 CA4th 144, 151–152; In re S.W. (2005) 131 CA4th 838, 846–847.] The social worker must do the background check, even if the receiving jurisdiction would require a less rigorous background check. [In re Sabrina H. (2007) 149 CA4th 1403, 1417–1418.] The county social worker must also check other state abuse and neglect registries for any adult household person who has lived in another state in the preceding five years. [WIC §361.4(c).]

It is an abuse of discretion to order placement with a relative with a criminal record who has not obtained a waiver from the director of DSS. [LA County DCFS v Superior Court (Valerie A.) (2001) 87 CA4th 1161, 1166–1167.] Section 361.4, however, does not require removal if the conviction occurs after placement in the home. Under this circumstance, you have discretion. [LA County DCFS v Superior Court (Cheryl M.) (2003) 112 CA4th 509, 519–520.]

REFERENCE >> For a form of order for placement with a nonparent, see form JV-421.

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© 2006 by Judicial Council of California
updated as of January 1, 2012