to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No.
Attorneys for Petitioner: Robert G. Tweedell, Guardian ad
Litem Delta, Colorado
Ulrich, Guardian ad Litem Saguache, Colorado
Attorney for Amicus Curiae Colorado Office of the Child's
Representative: Sheri M. Danz Denver, Colorado
Attorney for Amicus Curiae Office of Respondent Parents'
Counsel: Ruchi Kapoor Denver, Colorado
appearance on behalf of Respondents.
In this dependency and neglect case, respondents are foster
parents who intervened in the trial court proceedings
pursuant to section 19-3-507(5)(a), C.R.S. (2017), and
participated in a hearing on the guardian ad litem's
("GAL") motion to terminate the parent-child legal
relationship between the mother and the child. The trial
court denied the motion. Neither the Department nor the GAL
appealed the trial court's ruling. Instead, the foster
parents appealed, seeking to reverse the trial court's
order. The narrow question before us is whether the foster
parents had standing to appeal the trial court's ruling.
The court of appeals concluded they did. We granted the
GAL's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the
court of appeals' decision and now reverse.
We hold that, although section 19-3-507(5)(a) permits foster
parents to intervene in dependency and neglect proceedings
following adjudication, foster parents here do not have a
legally protected interest in the outcome of termination
proceedings, and section 19-3-507(5)(a) does not
automatically confer standing to them to appeal the juvenile
court's order denying the termination motion at issue,
where neither the Department nor the GAL sought review of the
trial court's ruling. Moreover, because the GAL is
statutorily obligated to advocate for the best interests of
the child, including on appeal, there is no need to confer
standing on foster parents to represent the best interests of
the child on appeal. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of
the court of appeals and remand the case with instructions to
dismiss the appeal.
Facts and Procedural History
When C.W.B., Jr. was four weeks old, he underwent open heart
surgery. At a follow-up appointment six weeks later, doctors
discovered fractures to his femur and skull-injuries
consistent with child abuse. The hospital contacted the
Montezuma County Department of Social Services ("the
Department"), and the Department filed a petition in
dependency and neglect on June 24, 2014. The trial court
granted temporary custody of C.W.B., Jr. to the Department
and the Department eventually placed him with foster parents,
J.S. and A.S. C.W.B., Jr.'s mother ("Mother")
and father ("Father") both admitted that the child
was dependent or neglected pursuant to section
19-3-102(1)(c), C.R.S. (2017), due to an injurious
environment. The trial court then adjudicated the child as
dependent or neglected and adopted treatment plans for both
Father was later arrested for child abuse charges and pled
guilty to one felony count of child abuse. The Department
moved to terminate Father's parental rights. The trial
court granted the motion after a hearing in February 2016.
Father is not a party to this appeal and Father's
parent-child legal relationship with C.W.B., Jr. is not at
issue in this case.
Mother initially had some trouble complying with her
treatment plan, and by late September 2014, the trial court
had changed the permanency plan to adoption with the
concurrent plan of family reunification. However, throughout
early 2015, Mother began to participate more consistently in
the treatments outlined in her treatment plan.
Meanwhile, in April 2015, the foster parents moved to
intervene in the dependency and neglect proceedings under
section 19-3-507(5)(a). The trial court granted the motion
and allowed the foster parents to participate as intervenors.
Mother continued to work on her treatment plan, and in June
2015, she moved to change the permanency goal back to
reunification. At a permanency hearing in October 2015, the
court ordered more frequent visitations for Mother but did
not formally change the permanency plan. However, in November
2015, the Department reported that Mother had successfully
completed her treatment plan and requested that the
permanency goal be changed from adoption back to
reunification within six months, by March 2016.
In December 2015, the Department filed an update with the
court in which it proposed that C.W.B., Jr. be moved to a new
foster home closer to Mother's residence to facilitate
visits with her. The Department also expressed concern that
the current foster parents appeared to present a conflict
with the Department's requested goal of reunification
because they were too attached to the child and
"want[ed] adoption to happen for them."
Later that month, the GAL moved to terminate Mother's
parental rights, contending that she had not complied with
her treatment plan and was an unfit parent. Nevertheless, in
mid-January 2016, the trial court modified the permanency
goal back to reunification and ordered overnight visits with
After a two-day hearing in April 2016, the trial court denied
the motion to terminate Mother's parental rights,
ultimately finding that Mother had reasonably complied with
the treatment plan and that the GAL had failed to prove that
she was an unfit parent. Neither the Department nor the GAL
appealed the trial court's decision.
Instead, the foster parents, in their role as intervenors in
the dependency and neglect case, and acting alone, filed an
appeal in the court of appeals, seeking reversal of the trial
court's order denying the motion to terminate
Mother's parental rights. The Department filed a brief in
response, asking the court of appeals to uphold the trial
After reviewing the foster parents' petition on appeal,
the court of appeals issued an order to show cause why the
appeal should not be dismissed for lack of standing. In
response, the foster parents argued that they had standing to
appeal under section 19-3-507(5)(a) and this court's
decision in A.M. v. A.C., 2013 CO 16, ¶ 40, 296
P.3d 1026, 1038, which held that "foster parents who
meet the required statutory criteria to intervene may
participate fully in the termination hearing without
limitation." The court of appeals subsequently ordered
supplemental briefing on the standing issue. In their
supplemental brief, the foster parents argued that they had
standing to appeal because they had been made a party to the
case under section 19-3-507(5)(a) and that no party currently
represented the child's best interests because the GAL
had not filed an appeal. The GAL and Office of the
Child's Representative filed supplemental briefs opposing
the foster parents' standing to appeal, arguing that the
GAL has exclusive statutory authority to represent the
child's best interests.
In a published, split decision, the court of appeals affirmed
the trial court's order denying the termination motion.
People in Interest of C.W.B., Jr., 2017 COA 68, ___
P.3d ___. Relevant here, the panel majority held that the
foster parents had standing to appeal the trial court's
order denying the termination motion. Id. at
¶¶ 9-19. It reasoned that the foster parents
suffered an injury in fact "inasmuch as they were
arguably positioned to adopt the child in the event the
mother's parental rights had been terminated."
Id. at ¶ 14. The majority concluded that this
injury was to a legally protected interest because section
19-3-507(5)(a) allows foster parents to intervene in the
dependency and neglect proceedings as a matter of right, and
it inferred from this court's decision in A.M.
that "the statute gives qualifying foster parents a
right to represent the best interests of the child, and
therefore a stake in the outcome of the controversy."
Id. at ¶¶ 16-17. On the merits, the panel
majority nevertheless upheld the trial court's order,
concluding that the trial court applied the correct legal
standard in denying the termination motion and that the trial
court's findings adequately supported its order.
Id. at ¶¶ 31, 39.
Judge Harris dissented, concluding that the foster parents
did not have standing to appeal. Id. at ¶ 42
(Harris, J., dissenting). Judge Harris acknowledged that the
foster parents had a statutory right under section
19-3-507(5) (a) to intervene in the dependency and neglect
proceedings pending before the trial court. However, she
reasoned, section 19-3-507(5)(a) does not automatically
confer standing to appeal the outcome of those proceedings.
Id at ¶¶ 57-58. Rather, section
19-3-507(5)(a) confers only a procedural right to participate
in the proceedings. Id. at ¶¶ 62-63, 65.
Because the foster parents participated fully in the hearing
on the termination motion, Judge Harris concluded that they
suffered no injury and therefore lacked standing to appeal.
Id. at ¶ 66. Judge Harris further concluded
that section 19-3-507(5)(a) does not give foster parents
standing to assert the best interests of the child on appeal
and she disagreed with the panel majority's reliance on
this court's decision in A.M. to conclude
otherwise. Id. at ¶¶ 71, 80, 82.
We granted the GAL's petition for a writ of certiorari to
review the court of appeals' ruling that the foster
parents had ...