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In re G.G.

June 29, 2010

IN RE G.G. ET AL., PERSONS COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
F. G., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Sherri Sobel, Juvenile Court Referee. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK76059).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

F.G., the father of two twin girls, G.G. and A.G., appeals from a dispositional order. In the published portion of this opinion, we discuss the father's contention that the juvenile court could not require the individual counseling increment of the reunification plan to address his repeated angry use of racial, ethnic and gender epithets. We conclude the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when it so ruled.

II. PROCEDURAL EVENTS LEADING TO THE CHALLENGED ORDER

The Welfare and Institutions Code*fn2 section 300 petition was filed on January 27, 2009. The petition contained allegations of: serious bodily harm; failure to protect; serious emotional damage; and sibling abuse. (§ 300, subds. (a)-(c), (j).) After several continuances, the adjudication hearing was held on March 19, 24 and 27 and April 2, 2009. The twins were declared to be dependents pursuant to section 300, subdivisions (b) and (j). The juvenile court found the father: used inappropriate discipline; G.G. "has exhibited explosive, aggressive, uncontrollable behavior requiring therapeutic, psychiatric intervention, and the father failed to obtain timely, necessary therapeutic, psychiatric intervention for the child despite numerous recommendations for treatment"; and "has provided a chaotic home environment including regular and consistent confrontational behavior with the children's school and in the community . . . ."

At the conclusion of the adjudication hearing, the disposition hearing was held. The juvenile court ordered: the twins be placed in foster care; individual counseling for the twins and the father; visitation by the father three times per week including on the weekends; one hour of the visitation was to be unmonitored; the father participate in a fatherhood class; and the father's individual counseling address his use of sexist and racist language. In connection with this latter requirement, the juvenile court minute order states, "Father to be in individual counseling to address issues with a male therapist regarding father's racist and sexist views." The father filed a timely notice of appeal.

III. EVIDENCE

A. Detention Report

The detention report filed January 28, 2009, states the twins were taken into protective custody on January 22, 2009 by Santa Monica Police Department officers. G.G. had a bruise on the right side of her face, next to her eye. There were also two noticeable scratches next to her right eye. G.G. told her teacher, Nathan Garden, that the father had slapped her face and pulled her hair. G.G. made the same revelation to the school principal, Tara Brown, a police community liaison officer, a school psychologist, and two Department of Children and Family Services (the department) social workers.

According to the Detention Report: the father is 55 years old; the mother is an anonymous egg donor; the twins were carried to term by a surrogate mother; both twins were in special education classes; A.G. had learning difficulties; and G.G. was treated for emotional difficulties. G.G., who had an individualized education plan, had temper tantrums during which she kicked, bit and ran around. Her temper tantrums were so severe that sometimes physical restraints needed to be used on G.G. School district staff asked the father for permission to have an evaluation performed on G.G. by the Department of Mental Health. But he refused to permit such an evaluation to be performed.

There had been a large number of referrals to the department by the Santa Monica Police Department, anonymous citizens, and mandated reporters due to the father's temper and inappropriate behavior. The detention report relates the following: "Some of the incidents reported by Cory Rytterager, community liaison for [Santa Monica Police Department] are as follows: [December 11,] 2008, a [Santa Monica Police Department] Crossing Guard expressed concern about a little girl, later identified as [A.G.], who was struggling to keep up as she ran alongside a male (her father) on a bicycle. On [December 12 and 16,] 2008, John Muir Elementary School Principal Tristin Komlos called [Santa Monica Police Department] because [the father] was screaming at her staff. In September and October 2008, the school district bus drivers were refusing to transport [G.G.] to school because [the father] was screaming at the bus drivers. In early 2008, when the twins attended preschool, [Santa Monica Police Department] Juvenile Detective Trapnell received several calls from Pine Street Preschool Director Judy Abdo about father's explosive temper. . . . Father also made disparaging remarks to [Santa Monica Police Department O]fficer Navarro and an uninvolved minority stranger on a bench." Ms. Rytterager, the police community services liaison, said: "I saw the bruise on [G.G.'s] right temple. The bruise was red in color. I asked [G.G.] what [had] happened. . . . [G.G.] said her father slapped her and pulled her hair. [G.G.] said her sister . . . was in the bedroom and saw the slap and hair pulling." The preschool staff repeatedly tried to work with the father but he was always in a rage.

After the children were detained on January 22, 2009, Farideh Mostowfi interviewed the father. When advised the twins had been detained, the father told Ms. Mostowfi: '"[Y]ou want to keep them. You keep them.'" When asked about the bruise on G.G.'s face, the father responded: '"[S]he had no bruise this morning. She must have got it at school.'" When advised both of the twins said he had injured G.G., the father said: '"I did not slap the shit out of her. I had her by the chin and told her to calm down. I told her to clean every damn thing up and pick up everything.'" According to the father, G.G. had thrown items in the home around including her bed. Throughout the interview with Ms. Mostowfi, the father spoke loudly and belligerently.

During the interview, the father told Ms. Mostowfi: '"[D]id they tell you she had a bad day at school? She ran around like a wild animal. They had to drag her out of school. They told me to go and get her.'" When advised the twins' dependency case had been assigned to Ms. Mostowfi, the father said, "'[Y]ou send a bitchwoman to get me, a single father?'" The father then said, '"[R]ight now, I am on vacation.'" When asked what he meant about being on vacation the father said: '"[Y]ou have an attitude. You have an accent. You don't understand English. You Iranian, you want me to kiss your ass, go back home."' In reference to G.G., the father said: "'[N]o [] one can rehabilitate her. I am her only salvation - if you think you can raise her better than me, you keep her.'" The father continued to act verbally abusive toward Ms. Mostowfi by: making references to her culture; stating there was no point in continuing the conversation; calling her a '"bitch'"; and hanging up.

The twins were also interviewed by Ms. Mostowfi on January 22, 2009. G.G. said, '"[D]addy pulled my hair and hit me in the face.'" The father struck G.G. because she did not clean her room. Later, during the interview, G.G. said: '"[D]addy pulls my hair and hits me. That's why I don't like him.'" A.G. confirmed the father hit her on the buttocks.

Later, the twins were reinterviewed by another social worker, Eva Juhasz. They confirmed what they had revealed to Ms. Mostowfi. A.G. stated that the father's customary form of discipline was to spank the children on the buttocks. A.G. said to Ms. Juhasz: '"I'm scared. He's mean. . . . [H]e hits me on my bottom. Pulls my hair. Sends me to bed.'" Both twins refused to answer questions as to whether the spanking occurred under or over their clothing.

On January 22, 2009, Ms. Juhasz interviewed Meredith Abrams, the school psychologist at G.G.'s school. Ms. Abrams stated: '"[G.G.] told me daddy hit her and pulle[d] her hair. She said, '[H]e yelled at me to clean up my room in five minutes. I felt sad and angry.' The dad is verbally volatile. The school recommended [Department of Mental Health] services about a year ago, but he did not want it." In December of 2008, the father told Ms. Abrams he was at his "wits' end" but became livid when she explained counseling was available at the school. The school staff was unable to work with him because of the father's volatility. Ms. Abrams indicated the father exhibited signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and had a low tolerance for frustration.

The next day, January 23, 2009, Ms. Juhasz telephoned the father who denied knowing the twins were in protective custody. The father was advised of the detention hearing date. He became sarcastic and belligerent with Ms. Juhasz repeatedly stating she was an idiot and needed to grow up.

The detention report states the twins' grandmother, H.H., was interviewed. Later in the proceedings, it was clarified that H.H. is the twins' godmother. H.H. told Ms. Juhasz: '"The house is a pigsty, but he's not abusive with the girls. Maybe a spanking here and there. I've known [the father] for 25 years. I'm there twice a week. I'd like to see some changes. I'd like to see a housekeeper there. He's completely disorganized, he does not even have a dresser for the girls. . . . He even had a mouse in the house. The floor is way beyond washing. He says he does not understand why [G.G.] is way behind." When the subject of alcohol abuse was raised by Ms. Juhasz, H.H. stated: "'[A] problem with alcohol? Yes, on weekends when he's upset. Once he starts, he can't stop. Then he will get drunk.'" H.H. denied that the father was an alcoholic but admitted he could cut back. H.H. continued: "'But he's not belligerent because of the drinking. He does not like to be told what to do. He thinks the world is against a single dad.'"

Between 2004 and the date of the detention report, January 27, 2009, there had been 18 referrals to the department for general neglect, emotional and physical abuse. Department social workers deemed 17 of the referrals to be unfounded. As to a September 24, 2006 referral for general neglect, the department characterized it as inconclusive. According to Ms. Juhasz, most of the general neglect referrals could not be investigated because the father would not allow access to the family home. The department social worker, Ms. Juhasz, recommended the twins be detained, "Current circumstances, combined with information that the caregiver has or may have previously maltreated children in his care, suggests that the children's safety may be of immediate concern based on the severity of the previous maltreatment or the caregiver's response to the previous incident."

Attached to the detention report was Ms. Rytterager's January 22, 2009 report. The report related the facts in the detention report concerning the discovery of the injury to G.G. Also, some aspects of Ms. Rytterager's report were set forth in the detention report. Additionally, Ms. Rytterager's report noted that in terms of 18 prior referrals to the department, Santa Monica police officers accompanied social workers because of the father's explosive temper. In 2007 and early 2008, a Santa Monica police detective received several telephone calls from a preschool director, Ms. Abdo. Ms. Abdo indicated the father exhibited an explosive temper when dealing with the twins' preschool teachers. The father referred to one teacher, Monica Simon, as a '"black crow'" because she is African-American. The preschool staff tried to work with the father but he was always in a rage. In mid-2008, a shopper saw the father screaming at one of the twins. The shopper was concerned about possible child abuse and notified the police. On September 12 and 16, 2008, Santa Monica officers were summoned to John Muir Elementary School because the father was screaming at the school staff. On September 12, the father was at the school because A.G. had a decayed tooth. The father was advised to take A.G. to see a dentist. According to Ms. Rytterager, "Even though the tooth was decayed and causing [A.G.] pain, [the father] told the school staff that he wasn't taking her to the low cost dental office because he won't stand in line next to 'stupid illegal Mexicans.'"

In December 2008, a Santa Monica police officer was present on campus attempting to deal with the father's "escalating" temper. Ms. Rytterager's report provides a broader description of what occurred to a Latino or Latina police officer than that which was summarized in Ms. Juhasz' detention report. The officer was identified only as Officer Navarro. Ms. Rytterager's report states, "[The father] made fun of Officer Navarro's accent." In January 2009, the father was yelling at an African-American man sitting on bench near the school office. A police officer had to intervene and admonish the father.

B. The "Jurisdiction/Disposition" Report

1. Prior Department Contacts

On February 17, 2009, the department filed its "Jurisdiction/Disposition" report (jurisdiction report). The jurisdiction report began with an analysis of 18 prior complaints of general neglect, emotional and physical abuse, and "substantial risk" regarding the father and the twins. Fourteen of the allegations were labeled unfounded. Two of the prior allegations, one for general neglect and another that the father placed the two children at substantial risk were determined by the department to be inconclusive. The allegations were made by mandated reporters or unidentified complainants between June 24, 2004 and January 13, 2009. Thelma Gadson, a dependency investigator, related: "Although all of the numerous allegations that were investigated by [the department] resulted with being evaluated to be unfounded, the fact [is] that various persons in various settings (e.g. grocery store, schools and home) over a period of five years have been concerned enough on many different occasions about the incidents of abuse and neglect of the children by the father."

Additionally, the jurisdiction report revealed that on April 18, 2008, a telephone call was made to the "Child Abuse Hotline" concerning physical abuse and general neglect of the children. This information was apparently not investigated by the department as it was not 1 of the 20 reports listed in the jurisdiction report which were found to be unfounded or inconclusive. The jurisdiction report describes the incident which was not investigated: "The reporting party stated that on [April 16, 2008, G.G.] ran into a table and sustained a serious injury to her mouth. The father was called to pick her up from school. However, the school was unable to reach him." Although the father telephoned one-half hour later, he arrived at school the next day and made a hostile outburst.

2. Witness Statements

A significant portion of the interviews summarized in the jurisdiction report were matters already described in the detention report. Only new matters will be summarized here. G.G. was interviewed on February 10, 2009, after the January 27, 2009 detention hearing. She described again how the father struck her on the head. The father told G.G. to clean up her room in five minutes. She said her room was clean. Then he struck her on the head. According to G.G., the father "hit" A.G. Also, the father would pull A.G.'s hair. When asked why she was afraid of the father, G.G. responded, "Cause he hits me and pulls my hair." G.G. refused to answer questions asking her if she knows what constituted a "good" or "bad" touch. On February 12, 2009, A.G. stated that the father struck her on the arm. According to A.G., the father was more likely to strike G.G. G.G. acknowledged her father drank beer but would not answer the question of how he acted when he did.

Ms. Abrams, the school psychologist, was also interviewed. In addition to the discovery of G.G.'s injuries on January 21, 2009, Ms. Abrams described a prior January 13, 2009 incident. The father had placed a lit cigarette in G.G.'s ear. Ms. Abrams did not see any evidence of a burn to G.G.'s ear. But G.G. said she cried and was afraid after the cigarette incident. Mr. Garden, G.G.'s teacher, corroborated Ms. Abrams's discussion of the cigarette incident. But Mr. Garden recalled that the cigarette was placed on G.G.'s face. Mr. Garden stated: "[T[he father stated . . . that when [G.G.] doesn't 'behave' the school was to call him and he would 'tan her little fanny.'" The dependency investigator, Ms. Gadson wrote: "Mr. Garden stated . . . he was concerned about [G.G.'s] safety because the father 'is not able to control his behavior. . . . He makes racist and sexist remarks. That's not a healthy environment to grow up in. Her social development is hindered by his angry and bigoted ways. If he makes the kind of comments about people he barely knows, there's no telling what he is saying to those children. It's not a good place for a child to grow up.'"

A school district consultant, Kristin Ferres, spoke to the father about the twins receiving a "psycho-educational evaluation" which was ordered by the juvenile court. The father refused to agree to the assessment as he retained control over the twins' educational rights. The jurisdiction report states in connection with the assessment request, "According to Ms. Ferres, the father was very difficult to have a conversation with and the consultation ended with the father stating that his final words on any [a]ssessment or help was 'NO, NO, NO.'" Another district employee, Dorie Meek, a site supervisor, stated the father has an anger management problem but she saw no evidence of drug abuse on his part. Ms. Abrams, the school psychologist, was concerned about the father's aggression displayed towards school staff and whether he was also abusive to the twins.

Since being detained, the twins were enrolled in new schools. G.G., who has the individualized education program, had some initial problems at her new elementary school. G.G. acted out so violently at school that staff members were injured to the degree workers' compensation claims were filed. One teacher, Christina Hann, believed G.G.'s preference to take bubble baths was a "red flag" of possible sexual abuse. Ms. Hann saw G.G. as: one who has had '"very ...


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