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In re Jeremiah G.

April 14, 2009


APPEAL from orders of the Juvenile Court of Sacramento County, Peter S. Helfer, Juvenile Court Referee. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. JD226618).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scotland, P. J.


Joann W. (mother) appeals from the dispositional orders of the juvenile court removing her son, Jeremiah, from her custody and denying her reunification services pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5, subdivision (b). (Further section references are to this code.) Mother, who has a history of drug abuse and has previously failed to reunify with her three other children, claims the considerations underlying section 361.5, subdivision (b) do not apply in this case, and the dispositional orders did not comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

We publish this opinion to emphasize, again, what we thought that our court made clear in In re O.K. (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 152. In a juvenile dependency proceeding, a claim that a parent, and thus the child, "may" have Native American heritage is insufficient to trigger ICWA notice requirements if the claim is not accompanied by other information that would reasonably suggest the minor has Indian ancestry. Here, the assertion that there was a "possibility" the great-grandfather of the minor‟s father "was Indian," without more, was too vague and speculative to require ICWA notice to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (Id. at p. 157.) This is particularly so in this case because the minor‟s father, who made the assertion, later retracted it, telling the juvenile court that he "didn‟t actually have [Indian ancestry]." Thus, mother‟s appellate claim of ICWA error lacks merit.

In the unpublished part of this opinion, we reject mother‟s challenge to the denial of reunification services. Consequently, we shall affirm the juvenile court‟s orders.


Jeremiah was born on October 25, 2007, testing positive for cocaine. He was mother‟s third child born testing positive for cocaine. The other two had been removed from her care several years before, and her parental rights to them were terminated. Mother admitted using cocaine during the pregnancy with Jeremiah and had a drug related criminal history dating back to 1989.

Mother was offered voluntary services but failed to utilize them. She missed appointments, continued to test positive for cocaine, failed to participate in STARS (specialized treatment and recovery services), refused to drug test, and did not visit Jeremiah.

A section 300 petition was filed, alleging mother had failed to protect Jeremiah, in that she exposed him to cocaine in utero, she had a long and continuing history of substance abuse, she had failed to participate in voluntary services, and she had two other children for whom her parental rights had been terminated.

At the detention hearing on November 15, 2007, Jeremiah‟s alleged father, A.G. (father), had not yet been notified of the proceedings. The juvenile court found the evidence supported the allegations of the section 300 petition, and Jeremiah was ordered detained.

Father was located after the detention hearing. He had not lived with mother at the time of Jeremiah‟s conception, and he was not certain that he was Jeremiah‟s father. But he was willing to care for Jeremiah if paternity were established.

In her interview for the jurisdictional/dispositional report, mother admitted that she had used cocaine during her pregnancy, that her cocaine use during the pregnancy began only three days after her release from prison, that two of Jeremiah‟s half-siblings had also tested positive for cocaine at their births, that three of her children were removed from her custody because of her substance abuse, and that she failed to reunify with all of those children. Although mother agreed she had not rehabilitated from her substance abuse problem and needed help, she said she had been "doing good for a week and [a] half." This in turn led her to believe that her substance abuse did not place her child at risk.

Mother failed to utilize the voluntary services offered to her, despite her initial agreement to participate in services. She missed numerous appointments, did not appear for meetings with the social worker on October 26 or October 27, 2007, and missed her first appointment with early intervention specialists on November 6, 2007. When she was assessed, she was referred to a residential treatment program and to STARS for supportive services and testing. She was also referred for drug testing three times per week and a 12-step support program. At her intake appointment at STARS on November 15, 2007, mother tested positive for cocaine, and she did not participate in any additional STARS services. She did not attend orientation at the residential treatment center, and she did not drug test. She also did not visit with Jeremiah.

The social worker recommended that Jeremiah be removed from mother‟s home and that mother be denied reunification services. The report recommended denial of services because such services had been terminated previously with respect to three of Jeremiah‟s half-siblings, and mother‟s parental rights were terminated as to two of those ...

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