California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 361.3

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 361.3 provides in pertinent part as follows: "(a) In any case in which a child is removed from the physical custody of his or her parents pursuant to Section 361, preferential consideration shall be given to a request by a relative of the child for placement of the child with the relative. In determining whether placement with a relative is appropriate, the county social worker and court shall consider, but shall not be limited to, consideration of all the following factors: (1) The best interest of the child, including special physical, psychological, educational, medical, or emotional needs. (2) The wishes of the parent, the relative, and child, if appropriate. . . . (6) The nature and duration of the relationship between the child and the relative, and the relative's desire to care for the child. (7) The ability of the relative to among other things . . . Provide a safe, secure, and stable environment for the child ,. . . provide a home and the necessities of life for the child . . . , and facilitate visitation with the child's other relatives. . . . (8) . . . For a relative to be considered for placement of a child under this section, the relative's home shall first be approved pursuant to the process and standards described in subdivision (d) of Section 309. . . . (c) For purposes of this section: (1) 'Preferential consideration' means that the relative seeking placement shall be the first placement to be considered and investigated. . . . (d) Whenever a new placement of the child must be made, consideration for placement shall again be given as described in this section to relatives . . . who will fulfill the child's . . . permanent plan requirements. In addition to the factors described in subdivision (a), the county social worker shall consider whether the relative has established and maintained a relationship with the child." In Cesar V. v. Superior Court (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 1023, the minors' father had stipulated to termination of reunification services after the minors had been adjudged dependents and placed in a foster home. (Id. at p. 1027.) When a change in placement became necessary, the father sought placement of the minors with his mother. (Ibid.) The social worker initiated an assessment of the grandmother's home, but terminated that process and began looking for another foster family before making significant efforts to obtain necessary information from the grandmother. (Id. at p. 1033.) At a subsequent permanency hearing, the juvenile court reviewed and upheld the action of the social services agency, finding that it had not abused its discretion under section 361.3 in denying placement with the grandmother. (Id. at p. 1030.) The appellate court found that section 361.3 required the agency to give a relative seeking placement a "fair chance" and that the agency had not done so. (Cesar V., supra, 91 Cal.App.4th at p. 1033.) It further held that "when section 361.3 applies to a relative placement request, the juvenile court must exercise its independent judgment rather than merely review the agency's placement decision for an abuse of discretion." (Ibid.) The court returned the matter to the juvenile court to order completion of the grandmother's assessment and to hold a new hearing with the court exercising its independent judgment. (Id. at p. 1036.)