Suitable Out-of-Home Placement in Juvenile Delinquency Court

Out-of-home placement is when a minor is removed from the home and ordered to reside in a foster home. This is sometimes called suitable placement, foster care, or a level 14 group home.

The county probation department is responsible for determining and recommending suitable placement. Under Welfare & Institutions 727 a minor may be placed in:

  • the home of a relative, nonrelative, or extended family member,
  • a foster home or foster family,
  • a licensed community care facility,
  • a level 14 group home,
  • a group home or short-term residential therapeutic program.

In this article, our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys will discuss:

teenager with his hands cuffed
Out-of-home placement is when a minor is removed from the home and ordered to reside in a foster home

1. What is Foster Care Placement?

Foster care is the placement of a juvenile ward of the court outside the home in an unlocked facility. This could include placement with:

  • relatives, extended family members, or approved nonrelatives,
  • a foster home or approved resource family,
  • a licensed community care facility,
  • a foster family agency in a certified family home, OR
  • a group home or short-term residential therapeutic program (STRTPs).1

2. When Can a Minor in Delinquency Court be Placed in Foster Care?

A minor who commits a crime can be made a ward of the court. Under wardship, the court takes primary responsibility for the control and treatment of the child. The juvenile court judge has the authority to make any reasonable orders for the:

“care, supervision, custody, conduct, maintenance, and support of the minor or nonminor, including medical treatment.”2

In some delinquency cases, a minor will be removed from the home and placed in foster care. Before a juvenile can be removed from the parent's physical custody the court must find that:3

  • the minor's parents have failed to provide proper maintenance, training, and education,
  • the minor is a chronic truant,
  • the minor has been on probation in the parent's custody but has failed to reform, OR
  • the minor's welfare requires removing the minor from the physical custody of the parents.

If a juvenile is ordered removed from the parent's custody, the probation department must recommend where to place the child. In determining the appropriate placement, the probation officer must consider any recommendations of the child and family.

3. Who Determines Where to Place the Minor?

The county probation agency is responsible for determining the appropriate placement of a ward of the court. Minors placed outside the home for foster care must be placed in a safe setting that is:

  • the least restrictive,
  • most family-like, AND
  • best meets the needs of the minor.4

An effort must be made for the placement to be as near as possible to the parent's home.

At the suitable placement hearing, the judge reviews a social study of the minor made by the probation officer. This can include a victim impact statement. Any relevant and material evidence may also be offered by the child or parents.

The judge may accept or reject the probation department's recommendation. If the court rejects the placement determination, the court will consider other recommendations about the placement of the child.

4. What are the Types of Out of Home Placement?

The probation officer must submit a case plan to the judge at the disposition hearing after a sustained petition. The goal is the safe return of the child to the home. If that is not possible, the goal is permanent placement outside the home. The probation officer must consider any recommendations of the child and family.

4.1. Family and Extended Family Members

Placement with relatives is preferred. If a minor is placed in the home of a relative, the court may authorize the relative to act as if the parent for legal consent purposes. This could include authorization for the minor's medical, surgical, and dental care and education.

4.2. Foster and Resource Family Homes

If placement with a relative or extended family member is not possible, placement may be in a:

  • foster family home,
  • resource family of a foster agency,
  • certified treatment home or therapeutic foster care home,
  • group care placement.

4.3. Group Care Homes and Treatment Centers

Group care placement options include:

  • short term residential therapeutic programs (STRTPs),
  • group homes,
  • community treatment centers,
  • out-of-state residential treatment programs.

5. How Long Can a Minor Be Placed Out of the Home?

In most cases, the juvenile court works to return the minor to his or her home. The length of stay is determined by a number of factors. These include:

  • the needs of the child and their family,
  • the child's risk level to the community, AND
  • if treatment services have been completed.

The court must hold a placement review hearing at least every six months. A permanency planning hearing must be held every 12 months during the placement period.5

If the minor has continuing involvement with his or her parents, they will also be involved in any permanent placement planning.

6. Juvenile rights

Probation conditions may be imposed on a minor. Any condition must be reasonable and serve justice and the “rehabilitation and reformation of the ward.” To be valid, a condition must:

  • have a relationship to the crime for which the minor was convicted,
  • relate to conduct which is not in itself criminal, AND
  • require or forbid conduct which is reasonably related to future criminality.6

6.1. Visitation with Family

A juvenile placed out of the home has a constitutional right to visitation with family members. A court cannot delegate its authority over visitation to a residential program.7

6.2. Computer and Internet Access

Minors in out-of-home placements are entitled to some computer and Internet access.

6.3. Gender Identity

Minors have the right to be placed in out-of-home care according to their gender identity. This is regardless of their gender or sex listed in court or child welfare records.8

7. Foster care and Probation Camp Placement

Placement of a juvenile in juvenile hall, a ranch, camp, forestry camp or a secure juvenile home is considered “physical confinement.” This is quite different than placement in foster care. It is often imposed after a minor has performed poorly on probation.

Call us for help …

california juvenile crimes attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or a loved one is facing a juvenile court case, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or over the phone. You can call us 24/7 at (855) LAW-FIRM.


Legal References:

  1. Welfare & Institutions 727(a)(4); Welfare & Institutions 11402.

  2. Welfare & Institutions 727(a)(1)

  3. Welfare & Institutions 726 and California Rules of Court 5.790(d).

  4. See Welfare & Institutions 727.1

  5. California Rules of Court 5.810.

  6. People v Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3rd. 481.

  7. In re James R., 153 Cal.App.4th at 417.

  8. Welfare & Institutions 16001.9(a)(24).

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