challenge the veracity of the petition.77 If no other biological or legal
parent appears, the petition will likely go unchallenged, be sustained
as pled, and the grandmother would not have standing to appeal.78
Consequently, the grandmother would have no meaningful
opportunity to reunite with her grandchild, as California law only
provides reunification services for the mother, the legal guardian,
and the presumed father.79 The court has discretion to extend
reunification services to the non-presumed biological father if he
meets certain requirements,80 but not to former legal guardians,81 de
facto parents,82 or stepparents.83
The child would be removed from the only parent who she
knows and, unless the father suddenly comes forward or an
appropriate relative is found, the child would be placed in foster care
with strangers. What is worse, regardless of whether the child is
placed with the father or another relative, the child would have no
opportunity to reunify with her only psychological parent. The
trauma of severing the secure attachment between a child and
caregiver can be profound for the child, altering brain development
77 E.g., In re Zacharia D., 862 P.2d 751, 759-60 (Cal. 1993); In re Miguel E., 15
Cal. Rptr. 3d 530, 539 (Ct. App. 2004); In re Merrick V., 19 Cal. Rptr. 3d 490, 507
(Ct. App. 2004); In re Carrie W., 2 Cal. Rptr. 3d 38, 49 (Ct. App. 2003); In re
Emily R., 96 Cal. Rptr. 2d 285, 292 (Ct. App. 2000); In re Sarah C., 11 Cal. Rptr.
2d 414, 420 (Ct. App. 1992).
78 See In re Miguel E., 15 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 539 (stating that grandparents who have
not applied for or achieved de facto parent status are merely relatives, not parties
entitled to appeal).
79 See CAL. WELF. & INST. CODE § 361.5 (West 2013).
80 A man who has established that he is the biological father to the child, but who
has not established presumed father status, is not entitled to reunification services
unless he proves that the reunification services will benefit the child. See CAL.
WELF. & INST. CODE § 361.5(a); In re Zacharia D., 862 P.2d at 764-65.
81 If the court removes a child and terminates the guardianship that was established
through either probate court or dependency court, the former guardian is no longer
the guardian and thus not entitled to services. The court may remove the child,
leave the guardianship intact, and offer reunification services. In re Alicia O., 39
Cal. Rptr. 2d 119, 123-24 (Ct. App. 1995).
82 See Clifford S. v. Superior Court, 45 Cal. Rptr. 2d 333, 338 (Ct. App. 1995).
83 See In re Jodi B., 278 Cal. Rptr. 242, 245 (Ct. App. 1991).