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In Re J.H., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. L.H

January 6, 2011


Super. Ct. No. JD228753

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

In re J.H. CA3


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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115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.H., mother of the minor, appeals from orders terminating her parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395 (undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code).) Appellant argues new counsel should have been appointed for the minor because the divergent permanent plans for the minor and the minor's sibling created an actual conflict of interest; the juvenile court erred in terminating parental rights because the evidence showed termination would substantially interfere with the sibling relationship; and the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (Department) failed to comply with the inquiry and notice provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq. (ICWA)). We shall affirm.


The Department filed a petition to place the minor J.H., age two, and her eight-year-old half sibling in protective custody in December 2008 due to domestic violence in the home. The father absconded with the minor; the half sibling was placed with her paternal grandmother. Appellant admitted the allegations of the petition and the half sibling was adjudged a dependent child in July 2009. The half sibling subsequently disclosed that the father had sexually abused her.

In November 2009, the minor and the father were located in Georgia. The minor was returned to California and placed in foster care. The father was returned to California and placed in custody on sexual abuse charges. He appeared in the juvenile court in December 2009 and claimed Cherokee Indian heritage. The court ordered the Department to send notices to the tribes.

The social worker's jurisdiction/disposition report in December 2009 stated the minor was doing well in placement, had weekly supervised visits with appellant and apparently remembered her half sibling. The report further stated the father was not entitled to services due to absconding with the minor and his pending felony case. The report also concluded appellant was not entitled to services, having aided the father to abscond with the minor and having failed to benefit from 12 months of services for the half sibling.

A declaration in December 2009 by the paralegal responsible for ICWA notice stated appellant claimed no Indian heritage. The father claimed Cherokee heritage through his father. He had some historical information, including names filling a four-generation family tree, but had no immediate relative to contact for further information because his mother and sister were deceased. The father did provide the name of a cousin, D.F., and a seven-digit telephone number and said that D.F. resided in North San Juan, California. However, when the paralegal called the number, there was no response. The father also gave the name of his uncle who reportedly lived in Prescott, Arizona, but provided no further contact information. There was no apparent effort to contact the uncle. The paralegal spoke to appellant who said she would try to get further information but had not done so by the time notice was sent. The notices contained all the ancestor information the father made available to the paralegal.

At a hearing in January 2010, the father made corrections to the ICWA notice and the new information was sent to the tribes. In February 2010, the paralegal filed the tribes' responses with the court. None of the tribes considered the minor an Indian child.

A declaration by the paralegal in March 2010 provided additional information on efforts to acquire information about the father's ancestry. The paralegal spoke to the father's maternal cousin, who had no information about the paternal grandmother, and made unsuccessful attempts to contact the cousin's sister. The paralegal called the phone number for D.F. but used a local area code rather than the one for North San Juan where he may have lived. Four months later, the paralegal tried to call D.F. using that area code and also did a directory search for names of additional cousins that might have lived nearby. None of these efforts produced additional information on the father's ancestry.

At the jurisdiction/disposition hearing for the minor, the juvenile court found ICWA notice was complete and the minor was not eligible for tribal membership, sustained the petition as amended and denied services to both appellant and the father. The court set a selection and implementation hearing.

The July 2010 report for the selection and implementation hearing stated the minor was generally adoptable and her current caretakers were willing to adopt her. The permanent plan for the half sibling, who continued to live with her paternal grandmother, was guardianship. The half sibling wanted to maintain her relationship with the minor. The minor saw the half sibling at ...

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