In the Interest of Doe I, 467 P.3d 442 (2020), two minor children were removed from their mother’s care in Idaho after they were found homeless and living in a car. Their biological father’s whereabouts were unknown, but presumably he had been deported to Mexico several years earlier. About one year after the proceedings were started, the father’s paternity was established, after he was located in Mexico. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare began a placement plan to send the children to live with their father in Mexico. The children’s Guardian Ad Litem, however, requested more information about the father’s living situation before agreeing to the placement. The Department was having difficulty obtaining a home study of the father’s living situation because he was in Mexico. The court ordered the children’s prompt placement without a home study, but, then, in February 2020, additional evidence was discovered about the father’s criminal past in the United States, which precipitated the GAL and the Department to ask the court to reconsider its placement. Their motion to reconsider was denied because the father, as the biological parent, was presumed fit and that it was in the children’s best interest to be placed with him.
On appeal, the Court concluded that the magistrate erred in its application of the biological parent presumption which, in and of itself, does not negate the court’s due diligence to also ensure the safety of the children. It is particularly important in a cross-border child placement, because, once the child is outside of the United States, the U.S. court is likely divested of jurisdiction over the child and cannot un-do its unsafe decision. There is no mandate for a home study in that the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children does not apply to international placements, but there was a legitimate request by the Department and GAL for a home study, and they should have been given sufficient time to obtain one. The court should have also dove into the father’s criminal history more than it did to assure itself that the children’s placement with him would be safe.
This allows me to give a plug for International Social Service. International Social Service works with cross-border families and has a network globally that assists in situations like this. International Social Service would work within its network to secure a home study and can ensure a safe placement with the child’s parent in Mexico.