Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 45 Cal. 4th 522, 198 P.3d 1102, 87 Cal. Rptr. 3d 691

In re Corrine W.

Filed 1/22/09

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

In re CORRINE W., a Person Coming
Under the Juvenile Court Law.
___________________________________ )

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY BUREAU
S156898
OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY
SERVICES,
Ct.App. 1/4 A115584
Plaintiff and Respondent,
Contra Costa County
Super. Ct. No. J06-00168
v.
Y.C.,
Defendant;
)
CORRINE W.,
)

Movant and Appellant.

We granted review to examine the lower courts’ determination that a county
bureau of children and family services need not pay for automobile liability
insurance for a dependent minor in foster care. We affirm.
I. FACTS
Corrine W. was removed from her mother’s custody at the age of 16,
declared to be a dependent of the court (see Welf. & Inst. Code, § 300) and placed
in foster care with a friend’s family. When Corrine reached the age of 17, she was
a senior in high school, had completed driver’s education, passed the written
driving test, received a provisional driver’s permit and begun supervised driving
1


practice. She encountered difficulty, however, in obtaining a driver’s license. An
adult must ordinarily sign a minor’s license application, and the person who signs
thereby assumes civil liability for any damages caused by the minor’s driving.
(Veh. Code, §§ 17701, 17707.) Corrine’s foster parents and natural mother,
unwilling to assume liability or to pay for her automobile liability insurance,
declined to sign her application. California law also permits a child protective
services worker to sign a foster child’s application, without assuming personal
liability, but only “if the minor files proof of financial responsibility . . . .” (Veh.
Code, § 17701; see id., § 16430 et seq. [proof of financial responsibility].)
Corrine did not file proof of financial responsibility, and the Contra Costa County
Children and Family Services Bureau (hereafter the Bureau) would not pay for her
insurance. Accordingly, the Bureau also declined to sign her license application.
Corrine challenged the Bureau’s decision by filing a “motion to compel
support services,” asking the court, in effect, to order the Bureau to pay for her
automobile liability insurance. In support of the motion, she cited Welfare and
Institutions Code section 11460, which provides that “[f]oster care providers shall
be paid a per child per month rate in return for the care and supervision of [each
foster child] placed with them” (id., subd. (a)), and which defines “care and
supervision” as including “food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school
supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to a child,
and reasonable travel to the child’s home for visitation” (id., subd. (b), italics
added). The court denied the motion. Corrine appealed, and the Court of Appeal
unanimously affirmed. We granted review.
II. DISCUSSION
Corrine offers two arguments in support of her claim that the Bureau must
pay for her automobile liability insurance. First, she argues the plain language of
Welfare and Institutions Code section 11460, subdivision (b), compels payment.
2
Second, she contends the superior court has discretionary power to order payment
under various statutes defining the courts’ powers in dependency cases (id.,
§§ 202, subd. (a) [purpose of juvenile court law], 362, subd. (a) [powers of court
with respect to dependent children], and 362.05 [dependent child’s right to
participate in extracurricular, enrichment and social activities]), and that the court
abused its discretion in not ordering payment. Neither argument has merit.

A. Welfare and Institutions Code section 11460.
The first statute under which Corrine seeks payment for automobile liability
insurance belongs to a coordinated set of federal and state statutes under which
those governments offer financial support to foster care providers. The federal
government makes block grants for this purpose to the states, and the states
distribute the money to the ultimate recipients pursuant to plans developed jointly
by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (hereafter the DHHS)
and the responsible state agencies. (42 U.S.C. § 622(a).) The federal government
provides this assistance through the Aid to Families with Dependent Children-
Foster Care (AFDC-FC) program, established in title IV, part E, of the Social
Security Act. (42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.) California receives federal AFDC-FC
block grants, supplements the federal grants with state funds, and distributes these
monies through the state Department of Social Services (DSS) and county social
services agencies. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11460 et seq.)
To receive federal block grants under the AFDC-FC program, a state must,
among other things, make “foster care maintenance payments.” (42 U.S.C.
§§ 671(a)(1), 672(a).) As relevant here, section 675(4)(A) of title 42 of the United
States Code defines “foster care maintenance payments” as “payments to cover the
cost of (and the cost of providing) food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school
supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to a child,
and reasonable travel to the child’s home for visitation.” (Ibid., italics added.)
3


The legislative history of Public Law No. 96-272 (June 17, 1980) 94 Stat. 500,
which added this language to the United States Code in 1980, sheds no light on the
meaning of the italicized phrase.1 The California Legislature, to meet the state’s
obligations under federal law,2 simply copied verbatim the federal definition of
foster care maintenance payments.3 Thus, California law provides that “[f]oster
care providers shall be paid a per child per month rate in return for the care and
supervision of the AFDC-FC child placed with them” (Welf. & Inst. Code,
§ 11460, subd. (a)), and then defines “care and supervision” (id., subd. (b))
precisely as federal law defines “foster care maintenance payments” (42 U.S.C.
§ 675(4)(A)). Accordingly, “ ‘[c]are and supervision’ includes food, clothing,
shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability
insurance with respect to a child, and reasonable travel to the child’s home for
visitation.” (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11460, subd. (b), italics added.)
Corrine argues the language just quoted requires the Bureau to pay for her
automobile liability insurance. The argument fails for two reasons. First, Corrine

1
On this point, the legislative history shows only that the Senate Finance
Committee added the language defining “foster care maintenance payments” (42
U.S.C. § 675(4)(A)), which includes the reference to liability insurance, to
alleviate “general confusion about what can be called a foster care maintenance
payment.” (Sen. Rep. No. 96-336, 2d Sess., p. 15 (1980), reprinted in 1980 U.S.
Code Cong. & Admin. News, p. 1464.)
2
(Cf. Welf. & Inst. Code, § 16000.1, subd. (b)(2) [“It is the intent of the
Legislature to confirm the state’s duty to comply with all requirements under . . .
Part E of Title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 670 et seq.) that are
relevant to the protection and welfare of children in foster care”].)
3
The Legislature first borrowed the federal definition of “foster care
maintenance payments” (42 U.S.C. § 675(4)) in 1982 as a definition of the
“allowable costs” on which payment rates for group homes or public child care
institutions were to be based. (Welf. & Inst. Code, former § 11462, subd. (b)(1),
added by Stats. 1982, ch. 977, § 15, p. 3516.) The same language continues today
in Welfare and Institutions Code section 11460, subdivision (b).
4


has not sued the agency— the DSS — responsible for setting the basic monthly
rate paid to foster care providers. Second, the relevant statutes do not in any event
compel the DSS to include automobile liability insurance in the basic monthly
rate.
The Legislature has designated the DSS as “the single organizational unit
whose duty it shall be to administer a state system for establishing rates in the
AFDC-FC program.” (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11460, subd. (a).) The Legislature
has also codified the currently established rates. (Id., § 11461 et seq.) The Bureau
argues that, because only the DSS can set the basic monthly rate for foster care,
the DSS is a necessary party to any action seeking to compel a change in that rate.
(See Code Civ. Proc., § 389 [joinder of necessary parties].) Indeed, insofar as
Corrine’s motion for support services in effect challenges the basic rate, that the
DSS is a necessary party appears self-evident. In the absence of the DSS,
“complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties . . . .” (Id., subd.
(a).) Furthermore, any judgment invalidating the basic rate would necessarily
“impair or impede [the DSS’s] ability to protect [its institutional] interest” (ibid.)
as the agency responsible for setting the rate. Finally, because the court cannot in
the absence of the DSS render an effective judgment invalidating the basic rate,
the Bureau was entitled to raise the claim, as it did, for the first time on appeal.
(See County of Alameda v. State Bd. of Control (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1096,
1105, fn. 5.)
Corrine seeks to avoid this conclusion by disclaiming any intention to seek a
change in the basic rate and by theorizing that the court may order the Bureau,
rather than the state, to pay for her automobile liability insurance. The Bureau,
she argues, if ordered to pay may demand reimbursement from the state under
5
Welfare and Institutions Code section 11408.4 She then concludes: “If this Court
rules in Corrine’s favor, the same rule (and the same statutory scheme) that
requires the county to reimburse foster parents would require [the DSS] to
reimburse the [Bureau].” The argument does not advance Corrine’s position. It
concedes, in effect, that a judicial order interpreting Welfare and Institutions Code
section 11460, subdivision (b), as imposing on the Bureau a previously
unrecognized financial obligation to foster children ultimately imposes that burden
on the DSS and, thus, affects the DSS’s ability to carry out its statutory
responsibilities. The DSS is a necessary party precisely for this reason. (Cf. In re
Marriage of Lugo (1985) 170 Cal.App.3d 427, 432-433 [county providing AFDC
benefits to a custodial parent is a necessary party to an action seeking to reduce
noncustodial parent’s child-support obligation].)
In any event, we do not understand Welfare and Institutions Code section
11460 as requiring the DSS to pay for automobile liability insurance. The section
does not authorize direct claims against the state or the counties for particular
expenditures by foster children or foster care providers. Instead, the statute directs
the DSS “to administer a state system for establishing rates in the AFDC-FC
program.” (Id., subd. (a), italics added.) Federal and state appropriations for
foster care are finite and must be shared by all foster care providers in the state.
The statute thus necessarily calls upon the DSS to exercise judgment in the use of

4
Welfare and Institutions Code section 11408 provides: “County claims for
aid to needy children placed in foster care, as defined by the rules and regulations
of the department, shall be filed separately and distinct from other claims and shall
be filed for aid furnished by the county at times and in the manner prescribed by
the department. Payments for such children may be made subsequent to the
furnishing of care and support to needy children in foster care. Payments may be
made at the end of each month for the needy children maintained in foster care
during the month.” We have no occasion to decide, and do not decide, whether
Corrine has interpreted this statute correctly.
6


limited resources. The statutory term “liability insurance” (Welf. & Inst. Code,
§ 11460, subd. (b); see 42 U.S.C. § 675(4)(A)) might well be sufficiently broad to
permit the DSS to choose to fund automobile liability insurance for minors in
foster care. No such question is before us. The term “liability insurance” is not
sufficiently precise, however, in the context of a statute directing a state agency to
make the best use of limited funds, to compel payment for everything that might
conceivably bear that label, any more than the terms “shelter” or “school supplies”
(§ 11460, subd. (b)) compel payment for everything that might conceivably bear
those labels, however extravagant in the context of a public assistance program.
We review this question of statutory interpretation independently, seeking, as
always, to ascertain the Legislature’s intent so as to give effect to the law’s
purpose. (Elsner v. Uveges (2004) 34 Cal.4th 915, 927.) We begin with the
statute’s plain language, as the words the Legislature chose to enact are the most
reliable indicator of its intent. (People v. Watson (2007) 42 Cal.4th 822, 828.)
But if “the text alone does not establish the Legislature’s intent clearly, we must
turn to other sources for insight, including the provision’s statutory context, its
legislative history, and ‘the human problems the Legislature sought to address’ in
adopting the juvenile dependency scheme. [Citation.] Dependency provisions
‘must be construed with reference to [the] whole system of dependency law, so
that all parts may be harmonized.’ [Citations.] By examining the dependency
scheme as a whole, we can better understand the consequences of a particular
interpretation, avoid absurd or unreasonable results, and select the interpretation
most consonant with the Legislature’s overarching goals.” (Tonya M. v. Superior
Court (2007) 42 Cal.4th 836, 844-845.)
Certainly the term “liability insurance” (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11460,
subd. (b); see 42 U.S.C. § 675(4)(A)) is broad enough to include automobile
liability insurance for some purposes. “Automobile liability insurance is basically
7
the same as any other form of liability insurance . . . .” (7A Couch on Insurance
(3d ed. 1997) § 108:1, p. 108-4.) However, Corrine cites nothing in the history of
the relevant state or federal statutes suggesting that Congress or the California
Legislature contemplated that foster care maintenance payments would include
automobile liability insurance. Nor have the state and federal agencies responsible
for interpreting the statutes suggested such a conclusion. The state DSS, in its
manual of policies and procedures, states without explanation or comment that
“the family home basic rate shall be allowed to include the cost of . . . [l]iability
insurance which covers the child.” (Cal. Dept. Social Services, Manual of Policies
& Procedures: Operations, ch. 11-400, AFDC-Foster Care Rates, § 11-401.12
[family home basic rates] <http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/ord/pg312.htm> [as of
Jan. 22, 2009].) The federal DHHS appears to have interpreted the term “liability
insurance with respect to a child” (42 U.S.C. § 675(4)(A); see Welf. & Inst. Code,
§ 11460, subd. (b)) as referring to types of coverage that, if unavailable, would
discourage individuals and organizations from becoming foster care providers.5
On this point, the DHHS explains in its Child Welfare Policy Manual that “[t]he
terminology may be misleading, because foster parents are interested in more than
‘liability insurance’. The correct interpretation includes coverage of damages to
the home or property of the foster parents, as well as liability for harm done by the
child to another party.[6] In addition, protection against suit for possible

5
Foster care providers do not need insurance to avoid liability for their
wards’ driving accidents. They may simply decline to sign their wards’ driver’s
license applications (see Veh. Code, § 17707) and withhold permission to drive
(see id., § 17708).
6
For example, the property damage and liability insurance typically included
in homeowner’s policies. (Cf. Ins. Code, § 676.7, subds. (a) & (b) [barring
discrimination against an applicant for homeowner’s insurance on the basis that
the applicant is engaged in foster home activities, and providing that coverage

(footnote continued on next page)
8


malpractice or situations such as alienation of affection are often realistic concerns
of persons who care for the children of others. [¶] Several States have responded
to these concerns by providing coverage for foster parents under a ‘pooled’
liability program which provides in effect a self-insurance for departments of State
government.[7] Other States have legislated or otherwise defined foster parents as
employees or as persons acting on behalf of the State, thus providing protection to
those persons for claims made against them as agents of the State. Some States
have purchased insurance coverage for foster parents, although the policies
available often do not cover all of the risks incurred.” (Admin. for Children &
Families, U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Policy
Manual (July 14, 2008) § 7.4, par. 3 <http://www.acf.hhs.gov/j2ee/programs/cb/
laws_policies/laws/cwpm/index.jsp> [as of Jan. 22, 2009]; see also id., § 8.3B.1,
par. 7.)
Consistently with the DHHS’s Child Welfare Policy Manual, which
recognizes a wide variety of approaches to the problem, the California Legislature
has met foster care providers’ need for “liability insurance with respect to a child”
(Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11460, subd. (b); see 42 U.S.C. § 675(4)(A)) in two
specific ways. First, the Legislature has created and funded with appropriations
the Foster Family Home and Small Family Home Insurance Fund. (Health & Saf.
Code, § 1527 et seq.) “The purpose of the fund is to pay, on behalf of foster
family homes and small family homes . . . claims of foster children, their parents,

(footnote continued from previous page)

under such policies with respect to a foster child shall be the same as that provided
for a natural child].)
7
This group of states includes California. (See Health & Saf. Code, § 1527
et seq. [establishing the Foster Family Home and Small Family Home Insurance
Fund].)
9


guardians, or guardians ad litem resulting from occurrences peculiar to the foster-
care relationship and the provision of foster-care services.” (Id., § 1527.1.)
Second, the Legislature has prohibited insurers from discriminating against an
applicant for homeowner’s insurance, which typically covers liability for
negligence, on the basis that the applicant provides foster care. (Ins. Code,
§ 676.7, subd. (a).) The Legislature has also required insurers to provide coverage
“with respect to a foster child [that is] the same as that provided for a natural
child.” (Id., subd. (b).)
When, as here, no better indication of legislative intent is available, the
principle of ejusdem generis is helpful. Ejusdem generis “ ‘instructs that “when a
statute contains a list or catalogue of items, a court should determine the meaning
of each by reference to the others, giving preference to an interpretation that
uniformly treats items similar in nature and scope.” ’ ” (Bernard v. Foley (2006)
39 Cal.4th 794, 806-807, quoting Kelly v. Methodist Hospital of So. California
(2000) 22 Cal.4th 1108, 1121.) All of the items mentioned in section 11460,
subdivision (b) — “food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, a
child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to a child, and
reasonable travel to the child's home for visitation” — define the broader term
“ ‘[c]are and supervision’ ” (ibid.). The list is one of expenditures that are
essential to the care and supervision of foster children. Automobile insurance for
17 year olds, while undoubtedly important in some cases, does not fit comfortably
into such a list. Many 17 year olds do not drive, for various reasons. For
example, some parents or guardians do not allow it, for some driving is too
expensive, and for some public transportation makes driving unnecessary. In
contrast, for the state to provide those forms of liability insurance necessary to
attract and retain foster care providers is arguably essential. Otherwise foster care
could not continue.
10
We need not, as noted, go so far as to conclude that the DSS may not include
automobile liability insurance in the basic foster care reimbursement rate. We do,
however, conclude that the term “liability insurance” (Welf. & Inst. Code,
§ 11460, subd. (b); see 42 U.S.C. § 675(4)(A)), is insufficiently precise to compel
the DSS to do so. Because the statute imposes no such obligation on the state, or
thus on the Bureau, the superior court properly denied Corrine’s motion.8
B. Did the superior court abuse its discretion by failing to order
reimbursement?
Corrine also argues the superior court had power to order the county to pay
for her automobile liability insurance under a variety of statutes defining the
courts’ powers in dependency cases, and that the court abused its discretion in not
doing so. We find no basis for concluding the court abused its discretion.
Courts do have broad powers in dependency cases. Under Welfare and
Institutions Code section 362, subdivision (a), “[w]hen a child is adjudged a
dependent child of the court on the ground that the child is a person described by
Section 300, the court may make any and all reasonable orders for the care,
supervision, custody, conduct, maintenance, and support of the child . . . .” Other
statutes guide the court’s exercise of this power in specific circumstances. For

8
Corrine also argues the Bureau has independent statutory authority to make
supplementary payments for foster care beyond the basic rate established by the
state. She refers to Welfare and Institutions Code section 11460, subdivision (e),
which provides that “[n]othing shall preclude a county from using a portion of its
county funds to increase rates paid to family homes and foster family agencies
within that county, and to make payments for specialized care increments, clothing
allowances, or infant supplements to homes within that county, solely at that
county’s expense.” Exercising this authority the Bureau has, for example, paid for
Corrine’s senior class trip, senior prom and high school yearbook. While we may
assume the statute would permit a county to pay for a foster child’s automobile
insurance as a “specialized care increment[],” we see nothing in the statute’s
permissive language that compels a county to do so.
11


example, “[i]f the minor is removed from his or her own family, it is the purpose
of this chapter [i.e., the Arnold-Kennick Juvenile Court Law; Welf. & Inst. Code,
§ 200 et seq.] to secure for the minor custody, care, and discipline as nearly as
possible equivalent to that which should have been given by his or her parents.
This chapter shall be liberally construed to carry out these purposes.” (Id., § 202,
subd. (a).) Also, “[e]very child adjudged a dependent child of the juvenile court
shall be entitled to participate in age-appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, and
social activities. No state or local regulation or policy may prevent or create
barriers to participation in those activities.” (Id., § 362.05.) In such matters,
“[t]he juvenile court has broad discretion to determine what would best serve and
protect the child’s interest and to fashion a dispositional order in accordance with
this discretion. [Citations.] The court’s determination in this regard will not be
reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion.” (In re Jose M. (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d
1098, 1103-1104.)
We may accept as true, if only for the sake of argument, that the cited statutes
would permit the court to order the county to pay for a foster child’s automobile
liability insurance in an appropriate case.9 Here, however, Corrine made no
showing of need sufficiently detailed or specific to distinguish her case from that
of any other 17 year old in foster care. She did not assert or make any effort to

9
Clearly driving is necessary for some foster youths to take advantage of
educational or vocational opportunities. For this reason, some counties have
chosen to subsidize automobile liability insurance through a different federal-state
program, the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. (42 U.S.C.
§ 677 et seq.; see also Welf. & Inst. Code, § 10609.3 et seq. [Independent Living
Program].) The program is intended to help foster children “make the transition to
self-sufficiency” (42 U.S.C. § 677(a)(1)) by providing assistance with such
matters as education, vocational training, job placement and daily living skills.
12


demonstrate, for example, that she needed to drive to attend school or work. On
this meager showing, we cannot say the superior court abused its discretion.
III. DISPOSITION
The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed.
WERDEGAR, J.
WE CONCUR:
GEORGE, C.J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.
13

See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion In re Corrine W.
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion


Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 154 Cal.App.4th 427
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.

S156898
Date Filed: January 22, 2009
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:

Superior
County: Contra Costa
Judge: Stephen F. Houghton, Commissioner

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Courtney Phleger, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Movant and Appellant.

Mary Regina Deihl for Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Movant
and Appellant.

Corene Kendrick and Abigail Trillin for Youth Law Center, Legal Services for Children and National
Association of Counsel for Children as Amici Curiae on behalf of Movant and Appellant.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Silvano B. Marchesi, County Counsel, and Steven P. Rettig, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and
Respondent.

Jennifer B. Henning for California State Association of Counties as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff
and Respondent.



Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Courtney Phleger
35 Miller Avenue, Number 217
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 380-8331

Steven P. Rettig
Deputy County Counsel
P.O. Box 69, County Administration Building
Martinez, CA 94553-0116
(925) 335-1830


Document Outline

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Petition for review after the Court of Appeal affirmed an order in a juvenile dependency proceeding. This case presents the following issue: Does Welfare and Institutions Code section 11460, subdivision (b), which requires that foster parents be paid for "food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, a child's personal incidentals, [and] liability insurance with respect to a child," require reimbursement of the costs of automobile liability insurance so that a teenaged foster child can drive?

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:
Thu, 01/22/200945 Cal. 4th 522, 198 P.3d 1102, 87 Cal. Rptr. 3d 691S156898Review - Civil Appealclosed; remittitur issued

Parties
1W., C. (Movant and Appellant)
Represented by Courtney Shands Phleger
Attorney at Law
35 Miller Avenue, Number 217
Mill Valley, CA

2Contra Costa County Bureau Of Children & Family Services (Plaintiff and Respondent)
Represented by Silvano Bruno Marchesi
Contra Costa County Counsel
P.O. Box 69, County Admin. Building
Martinez, CA

3Contra Costa County Bureau Of Children & Family Services (Plaintiff and Respondent)
Represented by Steven Patrick Rettig
Contra Costa County Counsel
P.O. Box 69, County Admin. Building
Martinez, CA

4C., Y. (Defendant)
5W., C. (Overview party)
Represented by Courtney Shands Phleger
Attorney at Law
35 Miller Avenue, Number 217
Mill Valley, CA

6California State Association Of Counties (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Jennifer Bacon Henning
California State Association of Counties
1100 "K" Street, Suite 101
Sacramento, CA

7Legal Advocates For Permanent Parenting (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Mary Regina Deihl
Judicial Council/AOC
3182 Campus Drive, Suie 175
San Mateo, CA

8Youth Law Center (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Corene Thaedra Kendrick
Attorney at Law
200 Pine Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA

9Legal Services For Children (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Corene Thaedra Kendrick
Attorney at Law
404 Park Ave S 11th Fl
New York, NY

10Legal Services For Children (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Abigail Trillin
Legal Services For Children
1254 Market St 3FL
San Francisco, CA

11National Associawton Of Counsel For Children (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Corene Thaedra Kendrick
Attorney at Law
200 Pine Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, NY


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar

Disposition
Jan 22 2009Opinion: Affirmed

Dockets
Oct 1 2007Petition for review filed
  Corrine W., Movant and Appellant Courtney Phleger, Counsel
Oct 4 2007Record requested
 
Oct 18 20072nd record request
 
Oct 19 2007Request for depublication (petition for review pending)
  Corrine W., movant and appellant Courtney Phleger, Counsel
Oct 24 2007Received Court of Appeal record
  file jacket/briefs/accordian file
Nov 14 2007Petition for review granted (civil case)
  Votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno, and Corrigan, JJ.
Nov 14 2007Letter sent to:
  counsels re: Certificate of Interested Entities or Persons
Nov 29 2007Certification of interested entities or persons filed
  Corrine W., movant and appellant Courtney shands Phleger, Attorney at Law
Nov 29 2007Certification of interested entities or persons filed
  Contra Costa County Counsel, respondent by Steven Patrick Rettig, counsel
Dec 6 2007Counsel appointment order filed
  Upon request of appellant for appointment of counsel, Courtney Phlegner is hereby appointed to represent appellant on the appeal now pending in this court. Appellant's brief on the merits must be served and filed on or before thirty (30) days from the date of this order. Your attention is directed to California rules of Court, rule 8.520, for the briefing requirements. Please note also that, because this is a child dependency case, the court may grant an extension of time only on "an exceptional showing of good cause." (Code Civ.Proc., 45; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.454.)
Dec 19 2007Request for extension of time filed
  Appellant - Corrine W. requesting extension till February 4, 2008 to file opening brief on the merits. by Courtney Phleger, counsel for appellant
Jan 4 2008Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including February 4, 2008.
Feb 4 2008Opening brief on the merits filed
  Corrine W., movant and appellant by Courtney Phleger, counsel
Mar 3 2008Answer brief on the merits filed
  Contra Costa County Children & Family Services Bureau, respondent by Steven P. Rettig, counsel
Mar 24 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
  Corine W., movant and appellant by Courtney Phleger, counsel
Apr 22 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting in support of appellant. by Mary Regina Deihl, counsel
Apr 22 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  California State Association of Countries in support of Respondent. by Jennifer B. Henning, counsel
Apr 23 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  Youth Law Center, Legal Services for Children and National Association of Counsel for children in support of appellant. by Corene Kendrick, counsel
Apr 28 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  The application of Youth Law Center, Legal Services for Children and National Association of Counsel for Children for permissiont to file an amicus curiae brief in support of appellant is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Apr 28 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
  Youth Law Center, Legal Services for Children and National Association of Counsel for Children in support of appellant. by Corene Kendrick, counsel
Apr 28 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  The application of Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of appellant is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Apr 28 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
  Legal Advocates for Permanent Parenting in support of appellant. by Mary Regina Diehl, counsel
Apr 28 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  The application of California State Association of Counties for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Apr 28 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
  California State Association of Counties in support of respondent. by Jennifer B. Henning, counsel
Apr 28 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
  California State Association of Counties, amicus curiae by Jennifer B. Henning, counsel
May 1 2008Note: Mail returned (unable to forward)
  Corene Thaedra Kendrick, counsel
May 19 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
  appellants response to California State Association of Counties Corrine W., appellant by Courtney Phleger, counsel
May 19 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
  Corrine W., appellant by Courtney Phleger, counsel
Jun 4 2008Opposition filed
  Opposition To Motion To Take Judicial Notice Contra Costa County Children & Family Services Bureau, respondent by Steven P. Rettig, counsel
Jul 16 2008Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Phleger
Sep 10 2008Case ordered on calendar
  to be argued Wednesday, November 5, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento
Oct 28 2008Request for judicial notice granted
  Amicus curiae California State Association of Counties' "Motion and Request for Judicial Notice," filed on April 28, 2008, is granted. Movant and appellant's "Motion to Take Judicial Notice," filed on May 19, 2008, is denied.
Oct 28 2008Received:
  additional authorities from Respondent - Contra Costa County by Steven P. Rettig, counsel
Nov 5 2008Cause argued and submitted
 
Jan 21 2009Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
 
Jan 22 2009Opinion filed: Judgment affirmed in full
  The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed. Opinion by Werdegar, J. -----joined by George, C.J., Kennard, J., Baxter, J., Chin, J., Moreno & Corrigan, JJ.
Jan 26 2009Note: Mail returned (unable to forward)
  envelope returned with red stamp indicating "address no longer here therefore this articule is refused"
Feb 23 2009Remittitur issued (civil case)
 
Feb 25 2009Received:
  receipt for remitittur from Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Four
Mar 10 2009Note: Mail returned (unable to forward)
  to Mary Regina Deihl, counsel
Jun 24 2009Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Phleger

Briefs
Feb 4 2008Opening brief on the merits filed
 
Mar 3 2008Answer brief on the merits filed
 
Mar 24 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
 
Apr 28 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
 
Apr 28 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
 
Apr 28 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
 
May 19 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
 
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
May 27, 2010
Annotated by ashleyms

Key Terms: foster care, liability, automobile insurance, child protective services, abuse of discretion, dependent minor

Facts: Corrine W. was removed from her mother’s custody at age 16 and placed in foster care. She attempted to obtain a driver’s license when she was 17 but was unable to do so because California law requires that an adult sign a minor’s license application (thereby assuming civil liability for any damages caused by the minor’s driving). Neither Corrine’s foster parents nor her natural mother were willing to assume liability or pay for insurance, and Corrine did not file proof of financial responsibility that would have permitted a child protective services worker to sign a foster child’s application. The Contra Costa County Children and Family Services Bureau would not pay for her insurance or sign her license application.

Procedural History: Corrine filed a “motion to compel services,” which the superior court denied. Corrine appealed, and the Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed. The Supreme Court granted review, and, below, affirmed the lower courts’ determinations.

Issue: Must a county bureau of children and family services pay for automobile liability insurance for a dependent minor in foster care?

Holding: A county bureau of children and family services need not pay for automobile liability insurance for a dependent minor in foster care.

Reasoning: (Werdegar, J.)

Corrine advanced two arguments: first, that the plain language of the Welfare and Institutions Code section 11460, subdivision(b), compels payment; and second, that the superior court had discretionary power to order payment and that in not doing so, it abused its discretion. California’s Supreme Court rejected both arguments.

With respect to the first argument, the court began its discussion with Section 11460, part of a set of coordinated federal and state statutes that grant government financial support foster care providers. States must maintain “foster care maintenance payments” to receive federal block grants under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care program, and the United States defines these maintenance payments as those “to cover the cost of (and cost of providing) food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, a child’s personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to a child, and reasonable travel to the child’s home for visitation.” The court sought to analyze the meaning of “liability insurance with respect to a child” but found the legislative history to be ultimately unenlightening.

Corrine’s plain language argument failed on two counts. First, Corrine hadn’t brought suit against the Department of Social Services, the agency responsible for setting the basic monthly rate paid to foster care providers and therefore the appropriate agency to sue. The DSS would be a necessary party to a suit of this nature because of its prerogative in defending its institutional interest – namely, the ability to set the rate, which would be affected by a judgment for the plaintiff in this case. Next, the term “liability insurance” is too imprecise to compel a state agency to make the best use of limited funds. Though the language may be sufficiently broad to permit the DSS to choose to fund automobile liability insurance for minors in foster care, the statute does not compel it. The court looked to the text and then the comprehensive scheme as a whole to determine legislative intent. The federal DHHS interpreted the term as referring to coverage that, if unavailable, would discourage individuals from becoming foster care providers; it recognized the problem of insurance liability when caring for the children of others. States have responded to these concerns in various ways, and the California Legislature has passed a series of statutes in accordance with the federal goals.

The court also relied on a traditional canon of statutory interpretation, ejusdem generis (“when a statute contains a list or catalogue of items, a court should determine the meaning of each by reference to the others, giving preference to an interpretation that uniformly treats items similar in nature and scope.”) The list in the statute contains essential expenditures, and automobile insurance cannot be said to fall within this category. The court points out that many 17 year olds do not drive for a variety of reasons, thus automobile insurance cannot be considered essential.

The discussion was more limited with respect to the second argument. The court held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion by not ordering the county to pay for her automobile insurance. Though courts have broad powers in dependency cases such as these, Corrine made no showing of need for the liability insurance (i.e. to get to school or work).

Disposition: Judgment of the Court of Appeal affirmed.

(Annotated by Ashley Steinberg)

Mar 12, 2009
Annotated by diana teasland

Written by Stephanie Ahmad

Procedure
A 17 year old in foster care filed a “motion to compel support services” to have Contra Costa County pay for her automobile liability insurance. The Superior court denied this motion. Corrine W appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court’s decision. Corrine W appealed again, and the California Supreme Court granted review; the decision was again affirmed.

Facts
Corrine W was placed in foster care with a family friend at the age of 16. She worked toward earning her driver’s license, but was unable to get an official license. This was because her foster and biological parents refused to sign her license and assume liability for her driving. She wanted the Contra Costa County Children and Family Services Bureau to sign her license pay for her liability insurance, but service workers are only allowed to sign licenses in such cases that the minor files “proof of financial responsibility,” which Corrine W did not.

Holding
The Department of Social Services is not responsible for paying for a foster child’s automobile liability insurance directly or through reimbursing a county agency.