Grandmother Adopting Grandchild Example Case in California

In In re Fernando M. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 529, the child had special needs (reactive airway disease and slight developmental delay) and had been placed with his maternal grandmother when he was a few months old. The grandmother also cared for the child's two older siblings, neither of whom was a dependent of the juvenile court. Both grandparents had bonded with the child and had a warm and affectionate relationship with him. But the grandfather did not want to adopt the child. The grandmother also did not want to adopt because she considered the child as belonging to her daughter who would get him back one day. She testified that she had agreed to adoption only because the social worker had threatened to remove the child from her home if she did not. The juvenile court made no finding whether the grandmother was willing and able to adopt the child in light of the social worker's threat and found against exceptional circumstances solely because " 'this is a grandmother who has already taken care of two of this mother's kids already.' " (In re Fernando, supra, 138 Cal.App.4th at p. 536.) The appellate court observed that the juvenile court had used the incorrect legal test for evaluating whether exceptional circumstances existed within the meaning of section 366.26, subdivision (c)(1)(D). It reversed the termination of the mother's parental rights after examining the undisputed evidence and concluding that the grandmother was unwilling to adopt because of exceptional circumstances.