Termination of Parental Rights for Lack of Suitable Housing In California

In In re P.C. (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 98, at the time of the 18-month review hearing, the mother had completed her case plan. (Id. at p. 101.) Her children, however, were not returned to her because of her "lack of stable, suitable housing" which "was due in large part to her lack of funds." (Id. at p. 100.) The record showed that, although the mother worked steadily, she was unable to find affordable housing in Orange County and SSA failed to provide her reasonable assistance to obtain safe, affordable housing. (Ibid.) Nevertheless, the juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that the return of the children to the mother would create a substantial risk of detriment to the physical and emotional well-being of the children. (Id. at p. 102.) The court terminated reunification services and set the matter for a permanency hearing. (Ibid.) On appeal, a panel of this court reversed the subsequent termination of parental rights, holding that poverty alone, even when it results in homelessness or less than ideal housing arrangements, is not a sufficient ground to deprive a mother of parental rights to her children. (In re P.C., supra, 165 Cal.App.4th at pp. 99-100.) In that case, we rejected SSA's argument that "'no further detriment finding was necessary' to terminate mother's parental rights because when the court entered its order following the joint jurisdiction/disposition hearing, it found vesting custody of the children with mother would be detrimental," stating "if that were true, however, then no parent would ever have the incentive to try to reunify with his or her child." (Id. at p. 106.) Thus, the juvenile court was required at the 18-month review hearing in that case to make a finding of detriment before terminating reunification services; it did make a finding of detriment; and this court concluded that finding was unsupported by the record. (Id. at pp. 102, 106.)