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In re Pedro Z.

November 16, 2010

IN RE PEDRO Z., JR., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
PEDRO Z., SR., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Valerie Lynn Skeba, Juvenile Court Referee. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK79249).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Presumed father Pedro Z., Sr. (Father), who was incarcerated throughout these proceedings, appeals from an order denying him family reunification services with his son, Pedro Z., Jr., born in 2002, after the juvenile court asserted dependency jurisdiction pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (b) (failure to protect) and placed Pedro with his mother, Norma D. (Mother), under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).*fn1

Father claims he was entitled to reunification services under section 361.5 as a matter of law. There is no statute or case specifically addressing the issue of whether a former custodial parent is entitled to reunification services under section 361.5 at the time of the disposition hearing when the child is placed with the other custodial parent. We hold that under these circumstances reunification services are not mandated under section 361.5. The order denying Father reunification services is affirmed.

BACKGROUND

Father, Mother, Pedro, and Pedro's half sister, Ashley T., lived together in the family home.*fn2 Father was on probation for a drug-related offense when a probation compliance search of the home on October 1, 2009, revealed methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Father was arrested and remained in custody throughout these proceedings. Pedro and Ashley were detained and placed in foster care until November 2009, when they were placed in the family home with the maternal grandmother after Mother moved out of the home to live nearby with another relative.

Father admitted to DCFS that he had a 10-year history of drug use and that he had used methamphetamine earlier on the day of his October 2009 arrest. He had been in a rehabilitation program for the previous two years, but he relapsed four days before his October 2009 arrest.

Seven-year-old Pedro told DCFS that he knew what drugs were and that he had seen Father smoke drugs in the kitchen and outside the family home. Pedro saw Father smoke a pipe with "green stuff" and powder in it. Pedro said that Father hid drugs in cabinets under the kitchen sink, which was one of the locations where the police found methamphetamine in their search. Pedro also claimed that he hid in the hallway so that he saw Father when he smoked, but that Father could not see him.

Pedro also told DCFS that Father sometimes hurt him by hitting him with an open hand on the back of his head and his back, and with his fist on his legs, hips and buttocks. Father left red marks but did not draw blood.

Mother, who was at work during the day, denied knowing that there were drugs in her home and that Father had relapsed. Although Pedro claimed to have witnessed domestic violence between his parents, his parents both denied any domestic violence. Both parents also denied that Father physically abused Pedro.

On November 23, 2009, Pedro and Ashley were placed with the maternal grandmother in the family home after Mother moved out of the home to stay nearby with a relative. The maternal grandmother monitored Mother's visits. Mother visited consistently for several hours every weekend. In November 2009, the juvenile court granted Father's request that he be allowed to send letters to Pedro. In December 2009, Mother completed a 30-hour parenting class, and at the time of the jurisdiction and disposition hearing in February 2010, Mother was attending an anger management class. Mother denied an anger problem but took the class upon the advice of her attorney.

In January 2010, Father was on an immigration hold in state prison and was to be deported to his country of origin, but the prison facility did not provide DCFS with a date of deportation. Father was not able to receive any telephone calls in state prison at that time. In a January 21, 2010 interim review report, DCFS recommended that Father not receive any family reunification services because DCFS did not know if Father planned to return to the United States after his deportation and participate in court-ordered services.

After both parents testified at a contested jurisdiction and disposition hearing on February 25, 2010, the juvenile court found that Mother was unaware of Father's drug relapse. The court sustained an amended petition under section 300, subdivision (b), based on the parents' "detrimental and endangering home environment for the children in that methamphetamine was found in the children's home within access of the children," on Father's possession of drug paraphernalia in the home within access of the children, on Father's 10-year history of drug abuse and current use of methamphetamine, and on Father's inappropriate discipline of Pedro by striking Pedro's head with his hand.

At the disposition hearing, Father's attorney requested that the court offer Father family reunification services, notwithstanding Father's anticipated deportation. Father's attorney argued that "the Department has not established that he will not be able to return to the country within the two years that he would be allowed under the law. [ΒΆ] His . . . probation violation that he's serving will be done on June 10th of this year. And so I ...


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