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In Re T.C. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Sonya C

December 21, 2010

IN RE T.C. ET AL., PERSONS COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. SACRAMENTO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
SONYA C., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. Nos. JD228832, JD228833)

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

In re T.C. CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Mother, Sonya C., appeals the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights to T.C. Mother contends that because the permanent plans for two-year-old T.C. and her almost 13-year-old half sister, R.B., were different, an actual conflict arose for minor's counsel and the trial court prejudicially erred in not recognizing this conflict and appointing separate counsel. We shall affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The minor T.C., then two months old, and her half sister R.B., then 11 years old, were detained in December 2008 due to mother's ongoing drug use and untreated mental health problems. They were placed together in a foster home and a few days later, moved together to live with a non-related extended family member. In March 2009, T.C. was declared a dependent based on mother's mental health problems, drug use, and domestic violence between mother and T.C.'s father. R.B. was declared a dependent on the same basis in June 2009. Reunification services were ordered.

Throughout the proceedings, R.B. and T.C. continued to live together. R.B. was adjusting well and T.C. was "doing great." It appeared that R.B. had taken a caretaking role with T.C. and was very protective of her. The foster parents supported reunification with mother, but were also willing to provide the children with a permanent placement.

Mother struggled with reunification services and ultimately her efforts at reunification were unsuccessful. She repeatedly tested positive for drugs, continued to be involved in incidents of domestic violence with T.C.'s father and appeared either unable or unwilling to separate from him. Reunification services were terminated in December 2009.

The children were placed together and had an obviously close relationship with each other. During visits with mother, T.C. preferred being held by R.B. and would cry if taken from her. It was difficult for R.B. to see T.C. upset.

R.B. was conflicted about the prospect of reunifying with her mother. She had difficulty deciding whether she wanted to return to her mother's care and custody. She was frustrated by mother's inability to complete services and allow the family to reunify. While she wanted to reunify with mother, she also enjoyed her current placement and wanted to continue to live there in a permanent and stable placement.

The caretakers remained willing to provide a permanent home for the children irrespective of their particular permanent plans. They agreed to the social worker's recommendations of adoption for T.C. and legal guardianship for R.B.

In May 2010, a contested Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 hearing was held.*fn1 Mother disagreed with the proposed permanent plans because she believed that if T.C. were adopted by the foster parents, R.B. would not want to leave T.C. and return to her home.

Minors' counsel argued for termination of parental rights as to T.C. Counsel noted she was adoptable and no exceptions to adoption applied. Counsel also specifically argued the sibling relationship exception did not apply because the siblings were placed together and the caretaker was committed to them. The court found T.C. adoptable and terminated parental rights as to her. Through counsel, R.B. informed the court that although she loved her mother and wanted to have a relationship with her, she really wanted guardianship "right now ...


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