Case Law Update: 19 Mar 2009

In re Tiffany W. et al. (Unpub'd), No. B207928

The Department of Children and Family Services (the Department) received a referral on November 20, 2007, from seventeen-year-old Tiffany and sixteen-year-old Chelsea's school of physical and emotional child abuse perpetrated by father. The Department filed a detention petition under 300(a) and 300(b) W&IC, which was later ammended to add an additional allegation under 300(c). An adjudication and disposition hearing was held, at which 11 days of testimony was offered to support the Department's allegations. The court sustained the 300(b) and 300(c) allegations, removed the girls from father, placed them under the supervision of the Department, ordered family reunification services and awarded father monitored visitation with the possibility for liberalization. Father appealed in pro per, contending a wide assortment of errors including judicial bias, due process violations, and insufficient evidence to support the allegations. The appeals court denied the appeal in all respects, and affirmed the juvenile court's orders.

Opinion: B207928.PDF, B207928.DOC

In re H.H. et al. (Unpub'd), No. D053455

Russell H. and L.S. (the parents) appealed judgments terminating their parental rights to two of their daughters, H.H. and T.H. (the children), and denials of their 388 W&IC petitions requesting placement of the children with them and further reunification services. They contended the court erred by denying their section 388 petitions and by finding the children to be adoptable. They also asserted the court erred by not finding the sibling relationship exception to termination of parental rights and adoption applied in the case. Additionally, L.S. asserted the court erred by not finding the beneficial parent-child relationship exception to termination of her parental rights applied in this case, and by designating the children's caretakers as their prospective adoptive parents. The appellate court affirmed the judgments in all respects, and denied the appeals.

Opinion: D053455.PDF, D053455.DOC

In re O.M. (Unpub'd), No. B210849

On July 2, 2008, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) received an immediate response hospital referral from concerning newborn O.M. Though both Y.A. (mother) and infant produced negative toxicological screens, mother acknowledged substance abuse issues and having lost custody of her other seven children in dependency proceedings in Arizona. At an emergency TDM the following day, the parents agreed to family preservation services and individual counseling, and the Department agreed to file a non-detained petition under 300 W&IC. At a juris/dispo hearing in late July, the Department indicated its belief that family maintenence services would be appropriate given mother's prior history with child protective services in Arizona. The juvenile court declared O.M. a dependent (under 300(j)), placed O.M. in mother's and father's home, and ordered the Department to provide family maintenance services. Mother appealed, contending primarily that, because none of her prior dependency cases occurred in California, "no child [of hers] was declared to be a dependent under section 300" and therefore the court's finding of jurisdiction under 300(j) was erroneous. The appellate court found that 300(j) does not impose a requirement for a prior sustained petition in California under 300(a),(b),(d),(e), or (i); rather, the requirement of 300(j) is only that the parents' conduct falls within the provisions of one of those sections. The appellate court found substantial evidence on the record to support the juvenile court's conclusion that 300(j) applied, and consequently denied the appeal and sustained the lower court's orders.

Opinion: B210849.PDF, B210849.DOC

In re Z.T. (Unpub'd), No. B210753

After the juvenile court had set a Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 hearing on selection and implementation of a permanent plan for dependent Z.T., his mother, A.N. (mother), filed a request for change in order under section 388 arguing that the juvenile court should have ordered an assessment of Z.T.'s maternal grandmother for possible placement with the grandmother as guardian. The juvenile court denied the section 388 request, terminated parental rights, and freed Z.T. for adoption. On appeal, mother argued that the juvenile court abused its discretion when it denied her section 388 request. According to mother, the juvenile court had a legal duty under section 361.3 to order an assessment of the maternal grandmother for placement — both prior to disposition and prior to the placement of Z.T. with his prospective adoptive family — but failed to comply with that duty. Mother argues that it was therefore an abuse of discretion not to rectify those failures by granting her section 388 request.

The appellate court held that mother's challenge on appeal was waived because she failed to raise those issues in the juvenile court and failed to pursue timely writ relief. Additionally, the appellate court held that the juvenile court did not err in concluding that mother's 388 petition failed to raise new facts or new circumstances and failed to demonstrate that the requested order would be in Z.T.'s best interests. Accordingly, the appeal was denied and the juvenile court's orders were affirmed.

Opinion: B210753.PDF, B210753.DOC

In re H.A. (Unpub'd), No. B210311

W.A. (Father) appealed from a June 25, 2008 order terminating parental rights to his daughter, H.A., born in December 2003, and referring her for adoption by a paternal cousin. On appeal, he alleged that the juvenile court erred in finding that the beneficial relationship exception to termination of parental rights under 366.26(c)(1)(B)(i) did not apply. The appellate court held that, because father failed to raise his objections to the adequacy of the adoption assessment in the juvenile court, his claims were waived on appeal. Additionally, the appellate court held that there is sufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's finding that Father failed to show that H.A.'s well-being would be promoted more by a continuation of the parent-child relationship in a tenuous placement than by adoption. Accordingly, the appeal was denied and the juvenile court's orders were affirmed.

Opinion: B210311.PDF, B210311.DOC

In re E.B. Jr. (Unpub'd), No. B209001

E.B. Jr., born in July of 2006, was detained in September of 2006, finding that Father had an unresolved history of drug abuse that rendered him incapable of providing his son with regular care and supervision. Father agreed to a court-ordered case plan in which E.B., Jr. would remain in the care and custody of this aunt and Father would have monitored visits. The court also ordered the DCFS to provide reunification services to Father and that Father complete a drug rehabilitation program, including random drug testing, and program of parent education. Reunification services were terminated for father at a 6-month review hearing, and for mother after the 18-month review. At a June 2008 permanency planning hearing, the juvenile court entered a sua sponte order denying father visitation. The court noted at that time that E.B. Jr. "will be two years old in a few weeks and he hasn't had any contact with his father for at least a year and a half." Father appealed the order denying visitation, contending that the juvenile court was required to permit continued visitation pending the section 366.26 hearing absent a finding visitation would be detrimental to the minors.

The appeals court held that, although the juvenile court erred in terminating father's visitation, the fact that "the time for establishing consistent visitation and contact with E.B., Jr. [had] long since passed" meant the error was harmless since reunification services had been terminated and father had shown no effort to address his drug addiction and homelessness issues. Accordingly, the juvenile court's order was affirmed and father's appeal was denied.

Opinion: B209001.PDF, B209001.DOC

In re D.P. et al. (Unpub'd), No. B208462

I.C., mother of the minor children D.P. and S.P. (Mother, D.P. and S.P., respectively), appealed from a disposition order. She challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support an adjudication finding that she "knew that the father of the minor children was sexually abusing them and she failed to protect the children". The reporter's transcript from the adjudication/disposition hearing showed that the trial court's spoken finding was that "Mother knew or should have known of the father's abuse and failed to protect the minors." (Emphasis added by the appellate court).

The appellate court held that mother's contention was technically correct, though not of much help to her in relieving her of responsibility for "Father's having been free to continue his ongoing sexual abuse of the minors". The appellate court therefore remanded the case to the juvenile court with instructions to amend, by interlineation, the additional language shown in the reporter's transcript.

Opinion: B208462.PDF, B208462.DOC

In re S.M. (Unpub'd), No. B207767

M.M. (Mother) appealed from a May 27, 2008 post permanent plan review order with respect to her daughter, S.M. (born in Aug. 1990), who was placed in a permanent plan of foster care with her maternal aunt in 2007. Mother challenged a purported factual finding that "reasonable services have been provided to meet the needs of the minor(s)". However, because the minute order from that hearing stated that "[t]he court finds that the Department has not provided the necessary services to assist the child in making the transition from foster care to independent living" (emphasis added), the court granted DCFS's motion to dismiss on the ground that Mother's brief raised no cognizable appellate issue.

Opinion: B207767.PDF, B207767.DOC

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