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In Re T.B., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. L.B

December 27, 2010


Appeal from an order of the Superior Court of Orange County, Gary Bischoff, Temporary Judge. (Pursuant to Cal. Const., art. VI, § 21.) (Super. Ct. No. DP-012301)

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

In re T.B.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.



L.B. (mother) appeals from the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights to her now 10-year-old daughter, T.B. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 366.26; all subsequent statutory citations are to this code.) Mother asserts the juvenile court erred by denying her modification petition (§ 388) seeking the return of T.B. to her custody after nearly five years as a dependent and by not applying the benefit exception (§ 366.26, subd. (c)(1)(B)(i)) to termination of parental rights. As we explain, mother's contentions do not require reversal, and we therefore affirm the juvenile court's order.


The Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) detained five-year-old T.B. in September 2005 after mother attempted to commit suicide with a butcher knife and was placed on a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hospitalization hold. (§ 5150.) While threatening to kill herself, mother had left T.B. alone in the apartment complex parking lot. Mother denied trying to kill herself, claiming she only sought attention and was upset about losing her job and the prospect of her girlfriend, Terri, leaving her, although she earlier had obtained a restraining order against Terri for domestic violence.

In a previous contact the year before, SSA substantiated a general neglect allegation arising from a domestic violence incident where mother and another girlfriend admitted using physical force against each other and the girlfriend reported mother "'pulled a kitchen knife out and threatened to cut her.'" T.B. awoke during the confrontation, but was not harmed and SSA did not detain her. This time, however, SSA filed a dependency petition based on the suicide attempt and ensuing hold, mother's decision to leave T.B. in the parking lot, her unresolved substance abuse problem (methamphetamine), and incidents of domestic violence, including the 2004 altercation.

Mother initially demonstrated devotion to T.B. in monitored visits. She also sought and obtained additional unmonitored visits with T.B. at Orangewood Children's Home, where informal staff observations reflected the mother-daughter contact was positive. Staff reported T.B. was "a joy to be with." Mother had been a dependent herself seven years earlier. She reported she only began smoking marijuana in the last two months, and admitted using methamphetamine over the last month "to lose weight." She progressed well before the jurisdictional hearing, testing clean and attending a drug rehabilitation program (Perinatal) and therapy, and she found a job. Perinatal staff diagnosed mother with a general "Depressive Disorder" with no psychotic features, which a social worker noted was "very different from a Major Depressive Disorder." Mother received a prescription for Wellbutrin for her depression, but if she could not take it, for instance while she had bronchitis, there was little risk to her mental stability.

In October 2005, the juvenile court sustained the petition and ordered T.B. released to mother under a Conditional Release to Intensive Supervision Program (CRISP) agreement, and then formalized the placement with a later dispositional order establishing family maintenance services.

By November, mother's progress stalled, with mother moving her residence four times since September and bouncing emotionally from crisis to crisis. T.B. appeared to cope well at first, but then became chronically sick. After several more months of unsettled housing, mother took an apartment in April with Terri, which violated her case plan because of the domestic violence restraining order. T.B. moved briefly to respite care after mother became ill with diabetes-related complications. T.B. suffered multiple episodes of enuresis, cried all night, and wanted to go home to mother. Her enuresis continued on her return to mother and through the remainder of the dependency.

Mother failed to attend counseling sessions, never began her parenting classes, and was discharged from the Perinatal drug program for noncompliance. She blamed a positive methamphetamine test on sabotage at the testing site. She also lost her job. Mother displayed some initiative in finding a new substance abuse program. But SSA redetained T.B. after mother tested positive twice for methamphetamine in early May 2006. SSA filed a supplemental dependency petition (§ 387) based on the positive drug tests, mother's domestic violence history, her failure to ensure T.B. attended school (16 absences from January into April 2006), and alleged failure to follow through with T.B.'s medical appointments.

Mother had taken T.B. to an endocrinologist in February 2006 because of pubic and armpit hair growth, but it was not until May that the social worker learned from the doctor's office that the diagnosis was adrenarche, or "early development," a benign condition. Of greater concern, T.B. weighed 94 pounds before her sixth birthday. Another report six months later put her weight at 80 pounds. Whether she lost that much weight or one of the numbers may have been in error, in either event, her kindergarten classmates were already teasing her about her size, making it difficult to form friendships. She did not want to go to school as a result.

Mother tested positive for methamphetamine again in late May and was terminated from her new drug program and individual therapy for missed appointments. T.B. reported that both mother and Terri had hit her and also reported seeing mother naked with various men. Mother denied hitting T.B. In July 2006 mother was involved in another domestic violence incident with Terri; the police report stated Terri's daughter was injured as mother and Terri struggled during an argument. Mother did not visit T.B. after she was removed from mother's care, leaving T.B. bewildered and sad. T.B. told the social worker, "'I love my mommy and I miss her very much.'" The juvenile court sustained the supplemental petition, ordered reunification services, and set a six-month review hearing.

Mother performed poorly during the six-month review period. She served three weeks in jail in September 2006 for possession of a "'pipe and a controlled substance,'" and she remained enmeshed with Terri despite a no contact order and her allegations Terri ran her over and broke her femur and fractured her ankle. She spent two days in the hospital on another psychiatric hold before absconding. The record is not clear, but she may have served another brief stint in jail on an outstanding warrant. She failed to attend personal empowerment classes, skipped a psychological evaluation and her substance abuse sessions, and was terminated from counseling and parenting classes for absences. Mother rarely visited T.B., who reported to school authorities and the social worker that she did not want to return home because mother hit her with a ...

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