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Lorenz v. State

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

December 8, 2015

WENDY LORENZ and ROBERT LORENZ, husband and wife, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
STATE OF ARIZONA, a body politic; CLARENCE H. CARTER, Director, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY, and JANE DOE CARTER, husband and wife; BRAD HJALMARSON and JANE DOE HJALMARSON, husband and wife; ALVIN ROMERO and JANE DOE ROMERO, husband and wife; CHRISTIE ORONA and JOHN DOE ORONA, husband and wife; Defendants/Appellees

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No. CV 2013-014617. The Honorable David O. Cunanan, Judge.

AFFIRMED.

David J. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, Lakeside, By David Joseph Martin, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants.

Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix, By Brock J. Heathcotte, Counsel for Defendants/Appellees.

Presiding Judge Margaret H. Downie delivered the Opinion of the Court, in which Judge Patricia A. Orozco and Judge Maurice Portley joined.

OPINION

Page 476

Margaret H. Downie, Judge.

[¶1] Wendy and Robert Lorenz (" Grandparents" ) appeal the dismissal of their civil complaint against the Department of Child Safety (" DCS" ), formerly known as the Department of Economic Security, and several DCS employees (collectively, " Appellees" ). Grandparents contend certain statutes, regulatory provisions, and administrative policies give rise to a civil duty by DCS to grandparents who wish to have dependent grandchildren placed in their care. Because the cited authorities reveal an intent to protect and benefit dependent children, not potential foster or adoptive placements, we affirm the superior court's judgment.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

[¶2] Wendy Lorenz is the paternal grandmother of E.C. (" Child" ), who was born in 2008 to S.W. (" Mother" ) and P.S. (" Father" ). After Child's birth, Mother signed a 90-day voluntary foster care agreement with DCS. Wendy L. v. Ariz. Dep't of Econ. Sec., 1 CA-JV 12-0108, 2013 WL 357582, at *1, ¶ 3 (Ariz. App. Jan. 29, 2013) (mem. decision).

[¶3] DCS placed Child with J.C. and P.C. (" foster parents" ). Id. Wendy visited Child twice at the foster parents' home. Id. at ¶ 4. DCS advised Wendy she could not have further contact unless her son established paternity. Id. A caseworker informed Wendy that her son must obtain a paternity test, which he did. Id. Wendy provided the test results to DCS, but the agency rejected them " for reasons not completely clear from the record, but which appear to relate, at least in part, to chain of custody." Id.

[¶4] DCS filed a dependency petition in August 2008, stating that it had " attempted to identify and assist placement with the child's grandparent or extended family" but that such a placement " is not in the child's best interests because relative placement search is ongoing." Grandparents allege DCS did not disclose their interest or involvement to the juvenile court.

[¶5] Grandparents moved out of the country in October 2008 due to previously accepted employment. In November 2008, Child was found dependent, and later that month, DCS received the results of a court-ordered paternity test, which established Father's paternity. [WL] at *2, ¶ 5. DCS did not contact Grandparents to determine if they were interested in becoming Child's placement, id., and Grandparents contend DCS misled the juvenile court by stating that no family placement was available.[2]

[¶6] In April 2009, DCS invited the foster parents to adopt Child and told them no family members had come forward. Id. at ¶ 6. As of that date, DCS had made no effort to contact Wendy or consider Grandparents as an adoptive placement; nor had Wendy contacted DCS since October 2008. Id. In May 2009, Wendy left a message for the assigned caseworker, who did not return her call. Id. at ¶ 7. Grandparents allege the progress reports DCS submitted to the juvenile court " failed to ...


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