Placement of Children With Relatives - California

Date: September 2022

Relative Placement for Foster Care and Guardianship

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 361.3; 361.31; 309(e)

When a child is removed from the physical custody of their parents, preferential consideration shall be given to a request by a relative of the child for placement of the child, regardless of the relative's immigration status. In any foster care or guardianship placement of an Indian child, preference shall be given to the child€™s placement with a member of the child's extended family.

In this section, the following applies:

  • 'Preferential consideration' means the relative seeking placement shall be the first placement to be considered and investigated.
  • A 'relative' is an adult who is related to the child by blood or adoption, including stepparents; stepsiblings; all relatives whose status is preceded by the words 'great,' 'great-great,' or 'grand'; or the spouse of any of these persons.

If the child is removed from home, the social worker shall conduct an investigation within 30 days to identify and locate all grandparents; parents of the child's sibling; adult siblings; other adult relatives of the child, including any other adult relatives suggested by the parents; and, if it is known or reason to know the child is an Indian child, any extended family members. The social worker shall provide to all adult relatives who are located, except when that relative's history of family or domestic violence makes notification inappropriate, the following information:

  • That the child has been removed from the custody of their parent, guardian, or Indian custodian
  • The various options to participate in the care and placement of the child and support for the child's family, including any options that may be lost by failing to respond

The social worker shall use due diligence in investigating the names and locations of the relatives, including, but not limited to, asking the child in an age-appropriate manner about relatives important to the child, consistent with the child's best interests.

Requirements for Placement with Relatives

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 361.3; 309(d); 361.4

In determining whether placement with a relative or nonrelative caregiver is appropriate, the court shall consider the following factors:

  • The best interests of the child, including special physical, psychological, educational, medical, or emotional needs
  • The wishes of the parent, caregiver, and child, if appropriate
  • Placement of siblings and half-siblings in the same home, if that placement is found to be in the best interests of each of the children
  • The good moral character of the caregiver and any other adult living in the home, including whether any person residing in the home has a history of violent criminal acts or has been responsible for acts of child abuse or neglect
  • The nature and duration of the relationship between the child and the caregiver and their desire to care for and provide legal permanency for the child if reunification is unsuccessful
  • The ability of the caregiver to provide a safe, secure, and stable environment for the child; provide appropriate care; and protect the child from their parents

For a caregiver to be considered appropriate to receive placement of a child on an emergency basis, the caregiver's home shall first be assessed for its suitability. The assessment shall include the following:

  • An in-home inspection to assess the safety of the home and the ability of the caregiver to meet the child's needs
  • A State-level criminal records check of all persons over age 18 living in the home
  • A check of allegations of prior child abuse or neglect concerning all adults in the home

If the criminal records check indicates that the person has no criminal record, the child may be placed in the home on an emergency basis. If the criminal records check indicates that the person has been convicted of an offense described in § 1522 of the Health and Safety Code, the child shall not be placed in the home, unless a criminal records exemption has been granted.

Requirements for Placement of Siblings

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 306.5; 358.1

When a social worker takes a minor into custody pursuant to § 306, the social worker shall, to the extent that it is practical and appropriate, place the minor together with any siblings or half-siblings who also are in custody. If the siblings or half-siblings are not placed together, the worker must include in the report prepared for the court a statement of their continuing efforts to place the siblings together or why those efforts are not appropriate.

A social study shall include a discussion of whether the child has siblings under the court's jurisdiction and, if any siblings exist, all the following:

  • The nature of the relationship between the child and their siblings
  • The appropriateness of developing or maintaining those relationships
  • If the siblings are not placed together, why they are not placed together and what efforts are being made to place the siblings together or why those efforts are not appropriate
  • If the siblings are not placed together, all the following:
    • The frequency and nature of the visits between the siblings
    • If there are visits, whether the visits are supervised or unsupervised
    • If visits are supervised, the reasons why the visits are supervised, and what needs to be done for the visits to be unsupervised
    • A description of the location and length of the visits
    • Any plan to increase visits between the siblings
  • The impact of the sibling relationships on the child's placement and planning for legal permanence

The report shall include a discussion regarding the nature of the child's sibling relationships, including, but not limited to, whether the siblings were raised together in the same home, have shared significant common experiences, or have existing close and strong bonds; whether the child expresses a desire to visit or live with their sibling, as applicable; and whether ongoing contact is in the child's best emotional interests.

Relatives Who May Adopt

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 361.31; Fam. Code § 8714.5

In any adoptive placement of an Indian child, preference shall be given to a placement with one of the following, in descending priority order:

  • A member of the child's extended family, as defined in § 1903 of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act
  • Other members or citizens of the child's Tribe
  • Another Indian family

It is the intent of the legislature to expedite legal permanency for children who cannot return to their parents and to remove barriers to adoption by relatives of children who are already in the dependency system or who are at risk of entering the dependency system.

A relative desiring to adopt a child may, for that purpose, file a petition in the county in which the petitioner resides. For purposes of this section, 'relative' means an adult who is related to the child or the child's half-sibling by blood or affinity, including all relatives whose status is preceded by the words 'step,' 'great,' 'great-great,' or 'grand,' or the spouse of any of these persons, even if the marriage was terminated by death or dissolution.

Requirements for Adoption by Relatives

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 8730; 8732

The Department of Social Services or adoption agency may provide an abbreviated home study assessment for any of the following:

  • An approved relative caregiver or nonrelated extended family member with whom the child has had an ongoing and significant relationship
  • A court-appointed relative guardian of the child who has been investigated and approved pursuant to the guardianship investigation process and has had physical custody of the child for at least 1 year

The home study shall include, at minimum, all the following:

  • A criminal records check
  • A determination that the applicant has sufficient financial stability to support the child and ensure that an adoption assistance program payment or other government assistance to which the child is entitled is used exclusively to meet the child's needs
  • A determination that the applicant has not abused or neglected the child while the child has been in their care
  • A determination that the applicant is not likely to abuse or neglect the child in the future
  • A determination that the applicant can address issues that may affect the child's well-being, including, but not limited to, the child's physical health, mental health, and educational needs
  • An interview with the applicant, an interview with each individual residing in the home, and an interview with the child to be adopted
  • A review by the department or agency of all previous guardianship investigation reports, home study assessments, and preplacement evaluations of each applicant

A report of a medical examination of the foster parent or the relative caregiver shall be included in the assessment of each applicant unless the department or agency determines that, based on other available information, this report is unnecessary. The assessment shall require certification that the applicant and each adult residing in the applicant's home have received a test for communicable tuberculosis.