Juvenile Dependency Hearing When the Mother Is Also a Minor

In In re M.F. (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 673, the mother of the infant subject to a section 300 petition was herself a minor, only fourteen years old. (Id. at pp. 676-677.) She was represented by counsel throughout the proceedings relating to her infant, but was not also appointed a guardian ad litem. (Id. at p. 679.) The mother did not contest jurisdiction and the juvenile court ordered the infant placed in foster care with the mother. (Id. at p. 677.) During subsequent proceedings relating to the infant, the mother ran away on two different occasions and, as a result, missed several hearings. (Id. at p. 677, 681.) According to the court, the mother's appointed attorney did not contest any of the findings or orders in the dependency proceeding relating to the infant. (Id. at p. 681.) At the section 366.26 hearing, the mother was again "AWOL" and the trial court terminated parental rights and ordered the infant placed for adoption. (Id. at p. 678.) Based on the foregoing factual and procedural history, the court in In re M.F., supra, 161 Cal.App.4th 673 determined that the forfeiture rule did not apply. The court reasoned as follows: "We also reject the Agency's argument that the mother's claim has been forfeited by her failure to file a writ petition following the termination of her reunification services. The waiver rule balances the interest of parents in the care and custody of their children with that of children in expeditiously resolving their custody status. (In re Meranda P. (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 1143, 1151-1156 65 Cal.Rptr.2d 913.) In most instances, a parent's due process interests are protected despite the application of the waiver rule because the dependency system has numerous safeguards built into it to prevent the erroneous termination of parental rights. (Id. at pp. 1154-1155.)" (In re M.F., supra, 161 Cal.App.4th at pp. 681-682.)