J.P. v. County of Alameda

Juvenile Law Center joined seven advocacy organizations on an amicus brief filed by National Center for Youth Law in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of J.P., a youth in foster care. Amici urged the Court to affirm the trial court ruling and uphold First Amendment protections for siblings, including cohabitating siblings in foster care.

The U.S. Supreme Court has afforded First Amendment protection to “the sanctity of the family” and emphasized the importance of “the emotional attachments that derive from the intimacy of daily association.” Amici argued that J.P. and M.M., his sibling, shared just the sort of intimate relationship that the First Amendment protects. As biological siblings growing up in the same home, they shared a life-long emotional attachment which was likely heightened when they were removed, placed together in a foster home, becoming each other’s only family and only connection to normalcy. Amici further argued that federal and California legislation have emphasized the importance of the relationship of siblings in foster care for decades and social science research has demonstrated the extraordinary importance of sibling relationships for youth in foster care.

The Ninth Circuit held that “no viable loss-of-familial-association claim exists for siblings under the First Amendment.” The Court additionally held that the child welfare workers involved in this case are entitled to qualified immunity.