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In Re S.R. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. J.R. et al

March 24, 2011


Super. Ct. Nos. JD224910, JD224911, JD224912

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

J.R. (father) and M.M. (mother), parents of the minors, appeal from orders of the juvenile court denying their petitions for modification and their motions for sanctions against the Department of Health and Human Services (Department), and terminating their parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 388, 366.26, 395; Code Civ. Proc., § 177.5.)*fn1 Appellants contend an illusory visitation order combined with the social worker's failure to perform essential functions require reversal of the denial of the petitions for modification and termination of parental rights. We affirm.


In October 2006, the Department removed the three minors, S.R., R.R. and L.R., all six years of age or younger, from parental custody due to domestic violence in the home. Both appellants speak Spanish and required interpreters. The court ordered reunification services but, after 18 months, appellants failed to reunify and services were terminated in April 2008.

The court ordered a bonding assessment. The social worker, who incorrectly believed both appellants and the minors spoke Spanish, was unable to find an expert who could perform the bonding study in Spanish and the Department filed a petition for modification seeking to eliminate the need to perform the study. The court granted the modification and subsequently terminated parental rights. In the first appeal, (case No. C060404, see In re S.R. (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 864), this court reversed the orders granting the petition for modification and terminating parental rights concluding there was an inadequate factual basis to modify the order for a bonding study.

During the time the case was on appeal, the minors remained placed together in a foster home where the caretakers were willing to adopt all three minors. All three minors were demonstrating educational and skills delays, but the stability of the placement was beneficial to the minors and they were showing improvement. Also during this time, mother gave birth to a fourth child who was detained immediately and eventually placed with the other minors. Parental rights were terminated as to this child in March 2009. Prior to the termination in March 2009, mother visited the child twice and father never visited.

The hearing on the remittitur occurred August 28, 2009. The court again ordered a bonding assessment and reinstated visitation between appellants and the minors.*fn2 Shortly thereafter, the minors were moved to new placements because the prior caretakers were divorcing and felt unable to provide for the minors' needs.

A bonding study was conducted in September 2009 by Dr. Jayson Wilkenfield who, having been informed that the minors did not speak Spanish, felt able to proceed with the study. The study concluded there was no evidence of a strong positive emotional attachment between the minors and appellants and termination of parental rights would not be detrimental to the minors. During the observed visit portion of the evaluation, the minors essentially ignored appellants and had little interaction with appellants. The evaluator noted the parents had not visited the minors since the prior order terminating parental rights.

At a hearing in December 2009, the court ordered a report on why the bonding study could now be conducted without a Spanish speaking expert. During the hearing, appellants asserted they had tried to contact the social worker for visits but their calls were never returned. The court confirmed the prior visitation order, instructed counsel to provide the social worker's number to appellants, and directed the Department to make reasonable efforts to arrange for visits.

Subsequently, the social worker provided a report on the bonding assessment. Apparently unimpressed with the explanation that Dr. Wilkenfield felt able to conduct the evaluation as long as the minors were not Spanish speaking, the court ordered a second bonding assessment to be performed by a Spanish speaking expert.

The second evaluation, completed in February 2010, concluded L.R. had a strong bond with appellants but the relationship was negative; R.R. had a weaker bond and also had a negative relationship with appellants; and S.R. had a relatively weak relationship with appellants which was neither positive nor negative. The overall conclusion was that termination of parental rights would not be detrimental to any of the minors and the minors would be best served by stable and permanent placements. The evaluation was the second time the minors had seen appellants since the case was reinstated and the minors were more interactive with appellants and with their two-month-old baby sister, appellants' fifth child. Appellants' behaviors in the observed visit ...

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