Com., Cabinet for Health and Family Services ex rel. A.W. and C.W. v. Huddleston et al.

Com., Cabinet for Health and Family Services ex rel. A.W. and C.W. v. Huddleston et al., 185 S.W.3d 222 (Ky.App. 2006)

Issue and Holding:
Whether a Family Court can require the Cabinet to maintain residence for children committed to its care in a particular county. The Court held no, the Family Court cannot intervene in the Cabinet’s placement of children.

Facts:
After petitions alleging neglect had been filed as to A.W and C.W., the children were committed to the custody of the Cabinet. At that time, the father of the children could not be located and the mother of the children was incarcerated. The children were placed with foster parents in Simpson County.
After the mother’s release from jail, she moved to Russell County. A permanency hearing was held, and the trial court ordered that the children remain in the custody of the Cabinet. It also found that the Cabinet’s plan to reunify the children with their mother was in the children’s best interests. However, the court also ordered that the Cabinet keep the children’s residence in Simpson County, more than 100 miles away from their mother.
The Cabinet filed a motion to alter, amend or vacate the portion of the order requiring it to keep the children in Simpson County, and it was denied. The Cabinet appealed.

Analysis:
The Cabinet, not the court, stands in loco parentis with regards to the children. KRS 610.010(11). The Cabinet has the sole and exclusive authority to determine the appropriate placement of children committed to its care. The court cannot intervene in the Cabinet’s placement of children. The court’s restriction on the Cabinet’s placement of the children also violated the separation of powers provision of the Kentucky Constitution.
Accordingly, the Court vacated only the portion of the trial court order restricting the Cabinet’s placement of the children and remanded the case back to the trial court for entry of a corrected order.