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In Re G.C., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Carlos C. et al

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION THREE


December 8, 2010

IN RE G.C., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. ORANGE COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
CARLOS C. ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.

Appeal from an order of the Superior Court of Orange County, Dennis J. Keough, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. DP017032)

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

In re G.C. CA4/3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

OPINION

Affirmed.

Carlos C. (father) and Maria A. (mother) appeal from an order terminating their parental rights to now two-and-a-half-year old G.C. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 366.26) where the court found him specifically adoptable. They contend there was insufficient evidence to show the prospective adoptive parents will be able to take care of the child's specific needs.

The child was born two months early and has significant developmental problems, described by one professional as being "globally developmentally delayed." His gross motor skills are below normal for a child his age. He communicates verbally on only a very basic level. He is at risk for cerebral palsy and has been diagnosed as moderately to severely autistic. He will require special schooling.

When the child was six months old he was placed in the prospective adoptive parents' home. At the time of the permanency hearing they had had custody of the child for a year and a half. During the time they have been caring for him they have taken the child to various doctors, support groups, and behavioral, occupational, physical therapy. The prospective adoptive mother testified that at first she was overwhelmed with all of his appointments. But after time passed, she got used to it. Reports of Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) and testimony showed the prospective adoptive parents were quite capable of caring for the child, were emotionally bonded to him, and were committed to providing a home for him. The prospective adoptive mother testified she loved the child and understood he would be dependent on her for the rest of his life. SSA reports describe the child as a "beautiful baby boy with an engaging smile" "who is attached, in a healthy manner, to his caretakers" and with whom there is "a warm and affectionate interaction."

The court found the child was not generally adoptable because of his "very significant needs." But it also found he was specifically adoptable based on the prospective adoptive parents' willingness to adopt him. There was no legal impediment to adoption and SSA's preliminary assessment of the prospective adoptive parents was satisfactory.

Although "there seemed to be some disconnect between" the prospective adoptive mother's testimony the child had "slight autism" and her later explanation of the "significant ongoing care" the child would need, the court found she understood "the global challenges" the child would face. Her care of the child over the past 18 months gave her "practical experience[]." In addition, she had taken college courses dealing with children who have special needs and had participated at the regional center and schools that provide services to the child. The child seemed to have benefitted from the services.

The court found the prospective adoptive mother also understood the economic aspect of caring for the child and had taken accounting classes to improve her skills to better provide for the child financially. Finally, she "has developed a significant bond of love and affection for the child."

If a "child is deemed adoptable based solely on the fact that a particular family is willing to adopt him or her, the trial court must determine whether there is a legal impediment to adoption. [Citation.]" (In re Carl R. (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1051, 1061.) This includes a showing the prospective adoptive parents are able to "meet that child's needs." (Id. at p. 1062.)

Mother and father argue there was insufficient evidence the prospective adoptive parents can meet the child's needs, defeating a finding the child is adoptable. They seize on a few statements the prospective adoptive mother made while testifying or in the SSA reports but fail to look at the evidence as a whole in the light most favorable to SSA and in support of the order, as is required. (In re Yvonne W. (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1394, 1400-1401.)

Parents focus on the prospective adoptive mother's testimony that the child had "slight autism" and "developmental delay" when in fact his problems are far more serious, highlighting the court's comment about the disconnect between that testimony and the child's actual condition. They emphasize one statement by a nurse practitioner that the child was "'messed up neurologically.'" They also point to SSA's report that they themselves were in denial about the child's condition and argue the same is true for the prospective adoptive mother.

The record reflects otherwise. The SSA report to which they refer stated the parents had a "fantasy" the child would be normal. On the other hand, the prospective adoptive mother's testimony shows she understood the severity of the child's disabilities. She stated that "given his level of autism" the child would not "have much independence in the future" and would "depend on [her] for his entire life." She understood the child's physical delays such as his inability to lift each of his feet to walk and climb stairs and that his speech was below the normal range. She could explain the concept of developmental milestones and knew of resources available for help. She also had experience with disabled children, having worked at a special education school for eight years.

Parents also rely on the prospective adoptive mother's testimony that the child was "becoming more independent" as evidence she does not sufficiently understand the severity of his condition. But on cross-examination she explained that she meant he would follow instructions such as taking off his shoes when told and she was working to potty train him.

The parents also criticize the prospective adoptive mother's testimony where she could remember the specialties of only five of the child's seven specialists. That hardly shows she is unaware of the child's needs. Further, she gave detailed testimony about the child's various therapy appointments, including days and times.

The prospective adoptive mother testified that when she first took custody of the child she felt the burden of all his doctor and therapy appointments but as time went by she was able to coordinate them and felt more confident. The parents claim this is unrealistic given that his appointments will only increase. But, as with much of their argument, and despite protests to the contrary, this is purely a credibility argument. We do not reweigh evidence or reconsider the court's determinations of credibility. (In re Stephanie M. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 295, 318-319.)

Further, a social worker reported that although the prospective adoptive mother was initially overwhelmed with the numerous doctors' appointments, she has now "demonstrated" she can "advocate on the child's behalf" and question the various professionals who are caring for the child. She also understands the child's "basic care needs." And, contrary to parents' argument, this last statement does not show the prospective adoptive mother lacks comprehension of the child's more complicated demands. In contrast, the prospective adoptive mother's good care of the child for the 18 months he was in her custody is strong evidence she is able to meet his needs.

The order is affirmed.

WE CONCUR:

ARONSON, J.

IKOLA, J.

20101208

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