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In re E.B.

April 9, 2010

IN RE E.B. ET AL., PERSONS COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, RESPONDENT,
v.
T.W. ET AL., APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. D. Zeke Zeidler, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK74651).

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

T.W. (Mother) and W.B. (Father) appeal from 2009 jurisdiction findings and disposition orders made by the juvenile court that resulted in E.B. (Son, age 11) and J.B. (Daughter, age 8) being detained with Mother, in Father being ordered to complete a family reunification program, and in Mother being ordered to complete a family maintenance program. The court ordered monitored visits between Father and E.B. and no contact between Father and J.B. Because Mother and Father fail to show any error, insufficiency of the evidence, or abuse of discretion, we affirm the juvenile court's orders.

BACKGROUND

Mother and Father divorced in March 2007, though they lived together periodically until September 2008, when Mother moved with the children to a domestic violence shelter to escape Father's verbal abuse. Father is a registered sex offender, having been convicted in 1989 of violation of Penal Code section 288, subdivision (a) (lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14), a felony.

On September 15, 2008, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received reports from police and nursing staff at the University of Southern California Medical Center that Father had sexually abused Daughter and physically abused Son. Mother alleged Daughter had told her that Father, on separate occasions, had put his penis in her mouth and inserted his fingers inside her vagina. Son had told Mother that at times Father, naked, would chase him around the house, trying to hit him. In an interview with police officers, Daughter reported Father had entered her room in the middle of the night on approximately eight occasions and inserted his fingers into her vagina and "put[] his thing insider [her] butt" and "hump[ed]" her. Daughter told a nurse that Father inserted his finger in her vagina. Son told DCFS that Father chased him around the house naked and he was afraid of Father because Father hit him frequently and said he was going to kill him.

Mother stated she had never seen Father sexually abuse Daughter or hit Son but that Father had threatened to kill her and the children.

DCFS detained the children with Mother and filed a petition containing allegations against Father under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b) (failure to protect), (d) (sexual abuse), and (j) (abuse of sibling).*fn1 At the detention hearing the court detained the children from father and placed them with mother. It ordered no contact between Father and Daughter and monitored visits between Father and Son. On October 8, 2008, the court issued a temporary restraining order for the protection of Mother and the children.

In October 2008, a social worker spoke with Dara Holz, the children's therapist, at the domestic violence shelter where Mother and the children resided. Holz reported that Daughter was suicidal, that she exhibited symptoms of anxiety, flashbacks, anger and panic, and that interviewing her regarding the allegations of sexual abuse would traumatize her. Son also exhibited signs of anxiety.

The social worker interviewed the family. Son reported inconsistently that he was not afraid of father and that he was afraid of him when Father was angry and chased him around the house. Father never threatened him but punished him by whipping him on his "butt" with a belt. When Father chased Son, Father was dressed in underwear and no shirt, which is the way he walked around the house. Daughter avoided questioning, but did state that she had seen Mother and Father fight.

Father adamantly denied all allegations, calling them "sickening." According to Father, Mother coerced the children into making the false allegations. He stated that Mother had been prescribed medication by her psychiatrist, was paranoid, spoke of spirits, at one point refused to comb her hair for six months, and had previously alleged that her own mother sexually molested Son. Father reported that his sex offender status resulted from an incident with a 13-year-old girl that occurred when he was 18 years old. He was imprisoned for three years after violating the terms of his probation and failing to register as a sex offender. Father denied ever chasing Son while nude or hitting him with a belt. On the contrary, it was Mother who would whip the children with a belt. Father also denied ever having had a physical altercation with Mother. He produced a document showing Mother had been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in April 2008, a fact Mother later confirmed.

Mother stated Father rarely spanked the children in front of her, but Son told her Father had beaten him and told him that if he told Mother, Father would kill him. She stated Father abused her emotionally on a regular basis, if she "didn't have his dinner cooked when he wanted it or sex when he wanted it . . . ." He would "call [her] stupid, broke, and say [he has] all the money [she has] nothing and he . . . can take these kids from [her] . . . ." This abuse started after Daughter was born. Mother would sometimes leave, taking the children to her mother's home, but would return with them when Father apologized. Mother also reported that Father struck her four times in February 2008, and that the children did not see it happen but heard her screaming. Mother admitted to taking Prozac for depression and, when told it had been reported that she suffered from mild schizophrenia, responded, "I'm feeling better now on medication, away from him. So much stress."

Maternal Grandmother reported that Father verbally abused Mother and "[wore] her down, made her nervous, anxious. Whatever [Father] told her, she believed it." She felt Mother had a drinking problem, using alcohol to self-medicate. She stated that Mother laid in bed all the time, neglecting to wash the children's clothes, and that Father gave Mother only two dollars a day, to keep her from drinking.

Father's nephew reported that Mother has ""been drinking a lot,'" ""was drinking beers in the am'" and vodka. ""She was drinking a lot of things. This is during the day. I've never seen her like this.'"

A Department of Motor Vehicles report indicated that when Mother was arrested for DUI her blood alcohol content was 0.21 percent. The police report indicated Mother was unable to stand without assistance when she exited the car.

Detective King, of the San Bernardino Police Department, expressed several concerns about the case. He indicated Mother's story had changed several times; Son had told him Mother said she would get a lot of money if Father went to jail; Son became nervous when asked whether Mother had coached him; and although Mother had reported that Father offered her money if she dropped her allegations, Father had recorded messages of Mother asking him for money. Detective King also reported that Mother had alleged in another spousal abuse complaint that Father had held a knife against her throat and threatened to kill her, but in relating the same incident to social workers she did not say Father held the knife against her or even touched her.

Detective King referred Daughter to The Children's Assessment Center for a forensic interview by Kim Lowenberg, a forensic interview specialist. Lowenberg reported that Daughter stated in the interview that Father ""did some horrible stuff'" to her. He put his ""thing'" in her ""butt'" and it felt ""mushy'" and ""nastiest'" and he put his finger in her ""front private'" and it felt ""nastiest.'" She recalled that this happened eight times in her room. She also stated that on three occasions Father put his ""thing'" in her mouth and it felt ""nastiest.'" Daughter said that Father made her sit down and watch nasty movies, including one with ""2 gay'" girls and one with a ""man and a woman,'" that the people in the movies were doing ""nasty stuff,'" and that Father told her that ""if you don't watch it, I wanna just kill you.'" Daughter said Mother was in Father's room at the time and she thought Mother knew about what was happening to her because ""stuff from up in heaven makes me know.'"

Lowenberg acknowledged that some of Daughter's statements were inconsistent, but that she was consistent in saying Father sexually abused her.

DCFS provided mother with a referral for random alcohol and drug testing on December 22, 2008. Mother missed three alcohol/drug tests, on December 30, 2008 and January 7 and 21, 2009. On February 13, 2009 she tested positive for opiates. Mother explained she had been unable to test because she had no identification, and she tested positive for opiates because she was taking prescription Vicodin. DCFS ...


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