Determining the Best Interests of the Child - California


Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16000(a) 

It is the intent of the legislature to preserve and strengthen a child's family ties whenever possible, removing the child from the custody of his or her parents only when necessary for his or her welfare or for the safety and protection of the public. If a child is removed from the physical custody of his or her parents, preferential consideration shall be given whenever possible to the placement of the child with a relative, as required by law. If the child is removed from his or her own family, it is the purpose of this chapter to secure as nearly as possible for the child the custody, care, and discipline equivalent to that which should have been given to the child by his or her parents. It is further the intent of the legislature to reaffirm its commitment to children who are in out-of-home placement to live in the least restrictive family setting promoting normal childhood experiences that is suited to meet the child's or youth's individual needs, and to live as close to the child's family as possible. Family reunification services shall be provided for expeditious reunification of the child with his or her family, as required by law. If reunification is not possible or likely, a permanent alternative shall be developed.

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16000(b)-(c)

It is further the intent of the legislature that all children live with a committed, permanent, and nurturing family. Services and supports should be tailored to meet the needs of the individual child and family being served, with the ultimate goal of maintaining the family, or when this is not possible, transitioning the child or youth to a permanent family or preparing the child or youth for a successful transition into adulthood. When needed, short-term residential therapeutic program services are a short-term, specialized, and intensive intervention that is just one part of a continuum of care available for children, youth, young adults, and their families. 

It is further the intent of the legislature to ensure that all pupils in foster care and those who are homeless as defined by the Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act have the opportunity to meet the challenging State pupil academic achievement standards to which all pupils are held. In fulfilling their responsibilities to pupils in foster care, educators, county child-placing agencies, care providers, advocates, and the juvenile courts shall work together to maintain stable school placements; ensure that each pupil is placed in the least restrictive educational programs; and has access to the academic resources, services, and extracurricular and enrichment activities that are available to all pupils. In all instances, educational and school placement decisions must be based on the best interests of the child.

Citation: Fam. Code § 175(a)

The legislature finds and declares the following:

There is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of recognized Indian Tribes than their children, and the State of California has an interest in protecting Indian children who are members of, or are eligible for membership in, an Indian Tribe. The State is committed to protecting the essential Tribal relations and best interests of an Indian child by promoting practices, in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. § 1901, et seq.) and other applicable law, designed to prevent the child's involuntary out-of-home placement and, whenever the placement is necessary or ordered, by placing the child, whenever possible, in a placement that reflects the unique values of the child's Tribal culture and is best able to assist the child in establishing, developing, and maintaining a political, cultural, and social relationship with the child's Tribe and Tribal community.

It is in the interests of an Indian child that the child's membership in the child's Indian Tribe and connection to the Tribal community be encouraged and protected, regardless of any of the following:

  • Whether the child is in the physical custody of an Indian parent or Indian custodian at the commencement of a child custody proceeding 
  • Whether the parental rights of the child's parents have been terminated
  • Where the child has resided or been domiciled 

Citation: Fam. Code § 175(b) 

In all Indian child custody proceedings the court shall consider all of the findings contained in subdivision (a), strive to promote the stability and security of Indian Tribes and families, comply with the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act, and seek to protect the best interests of the child. Whenever an Indian child is removed from a foster care home or institution, guardianship, or adoptive placement for the purpose of further foster care, guardianship, or adoptive placement, placement of the child shall be in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.