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In re Y.G.

June 23, 2009

IN RE Y.G., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
DAISY C., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Robert L. Stevenson, Referee. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK73618).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

INTRODUCTION

On this appeal, Daisy C. ("Mother") challenges the trial court's order adjudging her two year old daughter Y.G. a dependent child as described in section 300, subdivision (b).*fn2 In relevant part, subdivision (b) permits the juvenile court to exercise jurisdiction over a child if "there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm or illness, as a result of the failure or inability of . . . her parent . . . to adequately supervise or protect the child." (§ 300, subd. (b).) In this case, Department's*fn3 petition relied solely upon allegations that Mother had physically abused an unrelated child (Jocelyn G.), who is the same age as Y.G., to support its claim that Y.G. was at substantial risk of serious physical harm from Mother. Mother contends that the statutory language does not permit the juvenile court to consider a parent's misconduct with an unrelated child in determining a subdivision (b) allegation. We disagree and therefore affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Department's section 300 petition relied upon a subdivision (b) "failure to protect" claim to assert jurisdiction. The petition alleged:

"On or about 01/23/2008, . . . [Y.G.'s] mother . . . physically abused an unrelated one year old child, Jocelyn [G.], by striking the unrelated child's face, inflicting bruising, swelling, and a lump to the unrelated child's face.

Such physical abuse was excessive and caused the unrelated child unreasonable pain and suffering. Such physical abuse of the unrelated child by the mother endangers [Y.G.'s] physical and emotional health, safety and well-being, creates a detrimental home environment and places [Y.G.] at risk of physical harm, damage, danger and physical abuse."

At the jurisdictional hearing, Department submitted, with no objection from Mother, three reports, including photographs of Jocelyn G.'s injuries. In addition, Department presented two witnesses: a police officer and a social worker. Taken together, all of the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the juvenile court's order (In re S.O. (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 453, 461), established the following circumstances.

Jocelyn G., then 18 months old, was injured on January 23, 2008 while under the care of Angelina T., Mother's mother. Mother was present at Angelina T.'s home that day. Jocelyn G. and Y.G. are the same age, each having been born in July 2006. When Jocelyn G.'s mother picked Jocelyn G. up from Angelina T.'s home, she saw significant swelling and bruising on the left side of her daughter's face, including a one-inch lump on the temple. Consequently, she took Jocelyn G. to the hospital. A CT scan indicated that Jocelyn G. had suffered no injuries to her brain or fractures to her skull. Photos of Jocelyn G.'s injuries were taken. The photos clearly indicate a hand print on the child's face. The police were notified because it appeared that Jocelyn G. was the victim of physical abuse.

During the subsequent investigation, both Mother and Angelina T. gave the police false explanations for Jocelyn G.'s injuries. First, they claimed that Jocelyn G. had been kicked in the head by another child under Angelina T.'s care. Then they claimed that Jocelyn G. had been injured when an unidentified assailant had tried to rob Angelina T. outside of the Department of Water and Power (DWP) building. The police offered to administer polygraph exams. Each woman consented to and did take the exam. Angelina T.'s test results indicated that she gave truthful answers when she said that she was not responsible for Jocelyn G.'s injuries. Mother, however, gave deceptive answers to questions asking whether she inflicted the injuries. The police told Mother that she had failed the exam and that they had confirmed that her claim of a robbery outside of the DWP office was false. Mother then "admitted to making up the robbery story and hitting Jocelyn [G.] in the face. [Mother] stated that she and Jocelyn [G.] were in the bedroom when she slapped Jocelyn [G.] in the face causing Jocelyn [G.] to fall off the bed. When asked why she hit Jocelyn [G.], [Mother] said she hit [her] in the face because she was crying and would not stop. After hitting [her] in the face, [Mother] stated she became worried and `freaked out' after seeing Jocelyn [G.'s] injuries." Mother then stated that "she was sorry for hitting Jocelyn [G.] and promise[d] it would never happen again." The police arrested Mother for child endangerment (Pen. Code, § 273a) and obstructing a peace officer in the discharge of his duties (Pen. Code, § 148, subd. (a)(1)).*fn4

After Department began its investigation, Mother recanted her confession to the police. She said she had made the incriminating statements only because the police had threatened to take Y.G. from her if she did not confess. Mother again claimed that the source of Jocelyn G.'s injuries was either another child or the person who tried to rob her mother (Angelina T.).

At the jurisdictional hearing, Detective Marvin Jaramilla testified and denied having threatened Mother before she made her confession. In addition, Claudia Garcia, the social worker assigned to the case, testified that based upon all of the evidence, she believed Y.G. "was at risk of similar physical abuse due to the [two] children being the same age, . . . being preverbal, not of school age, and [therefore] at risk of similar physical abuse by [Mother]."

The juvenile court explicitly found that Mother's recantation of her confession and her alternate explanations for Jocelyn G.'s injuries were not credible. The court found that Mother had, in fact, inflicted the injuries on Jocelyn G. The court rejected Mother's contention that it could not consider this misconduct in ...


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