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In re Samuel G.

May 28, 2009


APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Harry M. Elias, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. NJ12950).

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


In this case, we hold the juvenile court properly ordered the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) to pay for the travel of a dependent child's educational representative to visit him at his out-of-county placement.


In September 2004, when Samuel G. was nine years old, he was separated from his mother, Catherine B., while in downtown Oceanside. Police picked up Samuel and took him to Polinsky Children's Center. Catherine, then living in a shelter, was contacted after she went to the police station to seek help in finding Samuel. Catherine said she was unable to care for Samuel, who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Samuel's father was not interested in caring for him.

On October 12, 2004, the juvenile court sustained Agency's petition under Welfare and Institutions Code,*fn1 section 300, subdivision (b), declared Samuel a dependent child and placed him in out-of-home care.

In December, Samuel was detained at the New Alternatives #11 facility, where he remained for seven months awaiting a suitable placement. At New Alternatives, Samuel displayed impulsiveness, hyperactivity, poor social skills, oppositional behavior with staff, conflicts with his peers and insomnia.

In March 2005, Agency recommended the juvenile court limit Catherine's educational rights and request the local educational agency to appoint a surrogate parent under Government Code section 7579.5, subdivision (b). In April 2005, Samuel had an individualized education plan (IEP), which provided he qualified for special learning disability services because of visual and auditory memory deficits and attention deficits. In May, a psychological evaluation diagnosed Samuel as psychotic and suffering from neurological dysfunction and depression. In July, Samuel was placed in a licensed group home at the San Diego Center for Children.

On July 11, 2005, the court suspended Catherine's educational rights and requested the local education agency appoint a surrogate parent pursuant to Government Code section 7579.5, subdivision (b). The record on appeal does not show whether the local educational agency received the court's request or took any action. On October 11, the juvenile court appointed Kate So as Samuel's Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).*fn2 The court also appointed So as Samuel's educational "surrogate."*fn3 So began visiting Samuel on a weekly basis. She subsequently recommended complete "psycho-educational testing" for Samuel. So also attended all of Samuel's IEP meetings.

By spring 2006, Samuel was doing well at Whittier Elementary School. In April, Catherine moved to Kansas. On July 14, the court, using the Judicial Council's JV-535 form, appointed So as Samuel's educational representative under section 361, subdivision (a).*fn4 On July 18, the court terminated Catherine's reunification services and found a section 366.26 hearing was not appropriate because Samuel was not a proper subject for adoption and no one was willing to be his legal guardian. The court selected another planned permanent living arrangement as Samuel's permanent plan. The court also ordered So to continue to represent Samuel in all matters related to his education.

By fall 2006, Samuel was doing well. In November, Samuel was placed in a foster home. The placement lasted only four days because Samuel hit the foster parent's children, pushed the two-year-old child down the stairs and threatened the foster mother when she would not give him a cookie for breakfast. Samuel was returned to the group home at the San Diego Center for Children.

Although Samuel did well on his return to the group home, by the spring of 2007 his behavior had deteriorated. He climbed on the roof of the group home and spent the night there. He assaulted a student on the school bus twice. In June 2007, Samuel was hospitalized twice under section 5150 as a danger to himself and others. After his release the second time, Samuel refused to return to the San Diego Center for Children group home and was detained at Polinsky Children's Center.

In September, Agency placed Samuel at the Victor Youth Services group home in Redding, California. In December, So visited Samuel in Redding and celebrated his 13th birthday. So reported Samuel seemed happier and more relaxed in his new group home. She also said that although Samuel continued to have behavior issues, the incidents had decreased.(CT 637)!

In February 2008, the social worker reported Samuel was making progress at the Redding group home with his academics, behavior, communication skills and overall attitude. The social worker and ...

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