Reasonable Means to Protect Children Without Removal

The statute is clear that no reasonable means must exist before removal can be considered. It does not appear the Agency or the court considered using the full authority of the juvenile court to impose stringent conditions on mother's continued custody as a reasonable alternative to removal. (Welfare and Institutions Code 362; Steve W., supra, 217 Cal.App.3d at p. 23 "the trial court has the ability to provide stringent conditions of supervision and close monitoring of the minor".) In In re Jeannette S. (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 52 (Jeannette S.), the Court found sufficient evidence supported the juvenile court's finding of dependency. (Id. at p. 58.) The court explained, "the Department's jurisdictional report details the condition of Jeannette's inadequate home environment. That report states that Jeannette was sent to school in clothes which were soiled with urine, she was not given breakfast at home, and she frequently returned from school to an empty house. The home was 'filthy' and there was no adequate place for Jeannette to sleep because of clutter. The jurisdictional report also stated that appellant had not provided a stable mother role and was unable to place her child's needs above her own." (Ibid.) In Jeannette S., mother and father were divorced. Social workers had visited the mother's home and "found it dirty and cluttered with debris. There were extensive dog feces on the kitchen floor and cat feces in the bathroom. The house smelled of urine and there was spoiled food on the stove. The minor had been forced to sleep on the couch in the living room because her bedroom was such a mess." (Jeannette S., supra, 94 Cal.App.3d at p. 56.) The Court, however, found the juvenile court's dispositional order removing custody from the parents was inappropriate given that the juvenile court had two reasonable alternatives to removal: 1) that the juvenile court could impose "stringent conditions of supervision by the welfare department with the warning that if the mother again let her house get filthy or failed to keep the minor in clean clothes and to properly care for her that appellant would lose custody of the child"; or 2) the court could have placed the minor with her father. (Id. at p. 60.) In In re Steve W. (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 10, the Court reversed a dispositional order removing physical custody of an infant from its mother under similar circumstances. The court explained, "the trial court's concern here was not so much that the mother would resume her relationship with the offending parent but that she would enter a new relationship with yet another abusive type of person. This reasoning is troubling. The facts of this case present an alarming situation, which in turn justifiably caused the court to proceed with utmost caution. It is not unreasonable to be concerned whether the mother would enter a relationship which might threaten the minor's well-being. But, the court cannot make this a basis of removing the physical custody of the child from the parent if its decision is based on pure speculation. It must be based on substantial evidence. There was evidence that the mother's selection of partners was not conducive to the raising of children as evinced by her two previous relationships. All other factors, however, support a finding that she would not enter a relationship detrimental to the minor. At the time of the hearing the mother had begun counseling, she was living in an adequate apartment and was self-supporting. There was no evidence that she was then involved in a relationship with anyone.... The court's conclusion here is supported by little more than speculation, and such does not suffice as substantial evidence to support removal." (Id. at p. 22.)