Hansen v. Department of Social Services

Decision Date01 July 1987
Citation193 Cal.App.3d 283,238 Cal.Rptr. 232
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesRachel HANSEN, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, et al., Defendants and Respondents. Salvador MONTES, et al., Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT of the State of California, for the County of Ventura, Respondent. DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, et al., Real Parties in Interest. Civ. B021106, Civ. B012398.

John K. Van de Kamp, Atty. Gen., Charlton G. Holland, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ann S. Pressman, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., Barbara M. Motz, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiffs and appellants.

Melinda R. Bird, Robert D. Newman, Richard A. Rothschild, Western Center On Law & Poverty, Gary L. Blasi, Los Angeles, Michael I. Bodaken, Pacoima, Byron J. Gross, Patricia Nagler, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Yvonne Mariajimenez, San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Legal Services, Colleen Fahey Fearn, Legal Aid Soc. of San Diego, San Diego, Katherine E. Meiss, Santa Ana, Edward Barnes, Legal Aid Soc. of Alameda County, Tamara Dahn, Legal Services of Northern California, Anita Evans, Joel Harter, Thomas Pulliam, San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation, San Francisco, Deborah Dorman, Abby Lassen, Kirk Ah Tye, Channel Counties Legal Services, Santa Barbara, Elizabeth Arnold, Contra Costa Legal Services Foundation, Richmond, Nancy Mintie, Inner City Law Center, Los Angeles, for defendants and respondents.

ABBE, Associate Justice.

We consider in these consolidated cases whether California law requires the California Department of Social Services (hereafter referred to as "DSS") to provide assistance to homeless families. We find that DSS regulation which limits "emergency A. Procedural Background.

shelter care" to children "who must be immediately removed from [their] homes," to be contrary to the plain meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code, sections 16501(c) and 16501.1. 1

1. Montes v. Superior Court

On September 24, 1984, Salvador Montes and Joseph McCarthy (hereinafter referred to as "petitioners") filed a taxpayers' mandamus action in Ventura County seeking to compel DSS and its director to assist homeless Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) families.

On February 1, 1985, petitioners moved for summary adjudication. The motion was denied on March 28, 1985. The trial court ruled that the statutes governing the AFDC program do not compel DSS to extend assistance in finding housing to homeless AFDC recipients. It further determined the Legislature to be the appropriate forum in which to address the issues tendered by petitioners. The court held that petitioners lacked standing to seek relief, inasmuch as it had not been alleged that any of them were, in fact, homeless. 2

A petition for a writ of mandate from this court was summarily denied on April 30, 1985. On July 11, 1985, the Supreme Court granted a petition for review and ordered the matter transferred to this court with directions that we issue an alternative writ.

2. Hansen v. McMahon

Plaintiffs (hereinafter also referred to as "petitioners") filed a class action in Los Angeles County on behalf of families who are homeless, or who are imminently threatened with homelessness, to compel DSS to provide emergency shelter or other child welfare services to homeless families.

On May 12, 1986, the trial court decided that petitioners were likely to succeed in ultimately obtaining an injunction, and that a balancing of equities justified the issuance of a preliminary injunction. (Code Civ.Proc., §§ 526, 527.) DSS was prohibited by the injunction from denying the provision of emergency shelter care "so as to exclude homeless children, regardless of whether homeless children remain with their parent(s), guardian(s), or caretaker(s)." DSS has appealed this ruling. 3

[193 Cal.App.3d 288] B. iA Brief Overview of the Child Welfare Services Program.

In 1961, the federal government began providing funds to assist the states in protecting abused and neglected children. (42 U.S.C. § 606(a)(1); Miller v. Youakim (1979) 440 U.S. 125, 126-128, 99 S.Ct. 957, 960, 59 L.Ed.2d 194.) In ensuing years, there was a growing concern that the expenditure of these funds was resulting in the warehousing of children in foster homes and in the break-up of families. (Smith v. Organization of Foster Families (1977) 431 U.S. 816, 834-835, 97 S.Ct. 2094, 2104-2105, 53 L.Ed.2d 14; In re Jeremy S.C. (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 384, 393, 167 Cal.Rptr. 283; Wald, "State Intervention on Behalf of 'Neglected' Children: A Search for Realistic Standards" (1975) 27 Stan.L.Rev. 985, 994-995 (hereinafter referred to as Wald I).)

In an effort to reverse this trend, Public Law 96-272 (Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980) amended the Social Security Act. (See 42 U.S.C. §§ 622, 625(a)(1), 671, 672.) Public Law 96-272 requires that a participating state provide "child welfare services," with the purpose of fulfilling the following objectives: "... (A) protecting and promoting the welfare of all children, including ... homeless ... children; (B) preventing or remedying, or assisting in the solution of problems which may result in the neglect, abuse, exploitation, or delinquency of children; (C) preventing the unnecessary separation of children from their families by identifying family problems, assisting families in resolving their problems, and preventing breakup of the family where the prevention of child removal is desireable and possible...." (42 U.S.C. § 625.) 4 Such wording makes evident Congressional recognition of the inseverability of child well-being from the preservation of the family unit. It further recognizes that its objectives can best be accomplished by providing, whenever feasible, such child welfare services that further and preserve the integrity of the family and that such services be rendered "to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his home...." (42 U.S.C. § 671(15)(A); see also 42 U.S.C. § 625(a)(1)(C).)

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 reflects congressional awareness of the special solicitude that the United States Supreme Court has had for the family unit. The Supreme Court has long recognized that the institution of the family forms the matrix of our society. (Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) 406 U.S. 205, 231-233, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15; Stanley v. Illinois (1972) 405 U.S. 645, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 31 L.Ed.2d 551.) "It is through the family that we inculcate and pass down many of our cherished values, moral and cultural. [Fn. deleted.]" (Moore v. East Cleveland (1977) 431 U.S. 494, 503-504, 97 S.Ct. 1932, 52 L.Ed.2d 531.) In Lehr v. Robertson (1983) 463 U.S. 248, 256, 103 S.Ct. 2985, 77 L.Ed.2d 614; Justice Stevens observed: "The intangible fibers that connect parent and child have infinite variety. They are woven throughout the fabric of our society, providing it with strength, beauty, and flexibility." The unique ability of a parent to give love, guidance, protection, and encouragement to his or her child, lies at the very heart of the parental relationship. (Rivera v. Minnich (1987) 474 U.S. ----, 107 S.Ct. 3001; Lehr v. Robertson, supra, 463 U.S. at p. 261, 103 S.Ct. at p. 2993.)

In 1982, the California Legislature enacted Senate Bill 14. The purpose of this measure is to bring California's child welfare laws into conformance with the philosophy of Public Law 96-272. (2 Cal. Juvenile Court Practice, Cont.Ed.Bar.Supp. (1986) § 15.3, p. 3.) DSS is mandated by this law to provide "social services which are directed toward the accomplishment of the following purposes: (a) protecting and promoting the welfare of all children, including handicapped, homeless, dependent, or neglected children; (b) preventing or remedying, or assisting in the solution of problems which may result in, the neglect, abuse, exploitation, or delinquency of the children; (c) preventing the unnecessary separation of children from their families by identifying family problems, assisting families in resolving their problems, and preventing breakup of the family where the prevention of removal is desireable and possible; ... Child welfare services may include, but are not limited to: ... emergency shelter care...." (§ 16501.)

Child welfare services consists of three components: Preplacement Preventive Services (§ 16501.1); Family Reunification Program (§ 16501.2); and Permanent Placement (§ 16501.3). Preplacement Preventive Services are "designed to help children remain with their families by preventing the need for removal." This component contains two subparts, the first of which, the Emergency Response Program, provides, "... intake services and crisis intervention to maintain the child safely in his or her own home or to protect the safety of the child." (§ 16501.1(a).) The second component, the Family Maintenance Program, "... is designed to provide time-limited protective services to prevent or remedy neglect, abuse, or exploitation, for the purposes of preventing separation of children from their families." (§ 16501.1(b).)

The Family Reunification Program is intended to provide social services "... when the child cannot safely remain at home, and needs temporary foster care, while services are provided to reunite the family." (§ 16501.2.)

The purpose of the Permanent Placement Program is to provide "an alternative permanent family structure for children who because of abuse, neglect, or exploitation cannot safely remain at home and who are unlikely ever to return home." (§ 16501.3.)

Emergency shelter care is made available under all three components of the Child Welfare Act. (§§ 16504.1; 16506.1; 16507.1; and 16508.1.)

C. The Legislative Intent of Term "Emergency Shelter Care" as Contained in Welfare & Institutions Code Section 16500 et seq.

Section 16504.1 directs DSS to...

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