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In Re Grace C. et al v. S.C

December 8, 2010


(Alameda County Super. Ct. Nos. OJ04000155, OJ07007882)

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

In re Grace C. CA1/4


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.

Appellant S.C. (mother) appeals from orders dismissing dependency jurisdiction as to her children Grace C. and Angelo C. after relatives were appointed as legal guardians for the minors. Mother claims that (1) the juvenile court abused its discretion by dismissing dependency, (2) the court improperly delegated discretion to the minors' legal guardians and therapist over visitation, and (3) respondent Alameda County Social Services Agency (Agency) failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1979 (25 U.S.C.A. § 1901 et seq.) (ICWA). We affirm.


The Agency filed a juvenile dependency petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b)*fn1 (failure to protect) and (g) (no provision for support) on December 15, 2004, when Grace was less than a week old. The petition (Case No. OJ04000155) alleged that mother and Grace tested positive for cocaine at the time of Grace's birth; that mother was on probation and had been previously incarcerated for drug sales; that mother had an "unstable, complicated home situation" that included a history of domestic violence; and that mother was unable to identify Grace's father.*fn2 Grace was adjudged a dependent child, and she was placed in the home of her maternal great-grandmother when she was five months old.

Mother gave birth to Angelo in March 2006. He was not immediately made a dependent of the juvenile court. Over the next year and a half, Grace was repeatedly continued as a dependent child following review hearings. Mother was permitted an extended visit with Grace, and Grace was eventually placed with mother for about a year; mother received family maintenance services during that time.

The Agency received a general neglect referral as to both Grace and Angelo in July 2007, and an investigation revealed that mother might not have stable housing. A supplemental petition (§ 387) was filed on August 28, 2007, alleging that Grace had been subject to neglect and that she had been exposed to domestic violence between mother and mother's boyfriend. Grace was again placed with her great-grandmother.

At a hearing on August 29, 2007, Grace was ordered retained, and the Agency was authorized to detain Angelo.*fn3 The next day, the Agency filed a petition as to Angelo (Case No. OJ07007882) pursuant to section 300, subdivisions (b) (failure to protect) and (j) (abuse of sibling), alleging that mother had placed both minors in dangerous situations while they were in her care. Angelo was ordered detained, and was placed with Grace in the great-grandmother's home.

Following a hearing on September 8, 2008, the parties reached a settlement regarding disposition. Pursuant to that settlement, the juvenile court sustained the section 387 petition (as amended at the hearing) as to Grace. The court adjudged Angelo a dependent child pursuant to section 300, subdivisions (b) and (j). Mother and Angelo's father waived their rights to family maintenance and family reunification services. They also agreed to the appointment of the maternal great-grandmother and maternal great-aunt as legal guardians for Grace and Angelo, and the juvenile court ordered the appointment after finding the appointment was in the best interest of the minors and after mother and Angelo's father signed letters of guardianship.

In an addendum report dated May 8, 2009, the Agency recommended that the juvenile court dismiss dependency as to the minors, and the juvenile court set the matter for a contested hearing after a mediation among the parties failed to result in an agreement regarding visitation.

A contested post-permanency review hearing was held over two days, on September 4 and October 30, 2009. The juvenile court received into evidence five Agency social worker reports. Those reports revealed that mother had "made significant progress in improving her personal circumstances," and that she was recovering from substance abuse and pursuing "healthy personal goals." She was "generally . . . in compliance" with the visitation plan, which called for three visits each week, to be supervised by the legal guardians. Maintaining the visitation schedule sometimes was "challenging for all the parties involved," because various personal and business conflicts (including mother's school and work schedules) had caused the parties to miss various visits. The visits took place at a fast food restaurant in Oakland, a location that was often "crowded and chaotic." Mother found the legal guardians "not to be very flexible with the visitation arrangements because they ha[d] not agreed to many of the venues and activities suggested" by her. The social worker reported that the legal guardians had offered "some flexibility" by including mother and Angelo's father in holiday plans, allowing mother to host Angelo's birthday party at her home, and agreeing to have visits at a local park of ...

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