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In Re A.D., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. C.Q

June 28, 2011

IN RE A.D., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. ORANGE COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
C.Q., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



Appeal from orders of the Superior Court of Orange County, Jane L. Shade, Temporary Judge. (Pursuant to Cal. Const., art. VI, § 21.) (Super. Ct. No. DP017037)

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Affirmed.

C.Q., mother of now 14-year-old A.D., arrived at the courthouse after the 12-month review hearing was completed. Based on the stipulation of counsel, the juvenile court had issued orders terminating reunification services and selecting a permanent plan of long-term foster care for A.D. The juvenile court refused to vacate its orders and allow mother to have a contested hearing. Mother appeals, contending the juvenile court erred because she was not given proper notice of the hearing and she had a statutory and due process right to a contested hearing.

We find the juvenile court's refusal to vacate its orders was not an abuse of discretion. We further find the failure to give notice was harmless. Accordingly, we affirm.

FACTS

In October 2007, 10-year-old A.D. and her 11-year-old sister were taken into protective custody in Los Angeles County after authorities served a search warrant at the house where mother and children were living. The search revealed "a significant amount of methamphetamines ready and packaged for sales" and five weapons, all within reach of the children. Two other families lived in the home, which was the site of known gang activity. The mother denied any knowledge of illegal activity in the home but admitted to recent use of methamphetamine and marijuana. The father, F.D., did not live in the home, and his whereabouts were unknown.

In January 2008, the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court sustained dependency petitions on behalf of the children under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b) (failure to protect) and (g) (abandonment). (All further statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code.) The children were placed with their maternal cousin and her husband. Mother moved into the maternal grandmother's home and enrolled in counseling and an outpatient drug rehabilitation program. In April 2008, the court held the disposition hearing. The social worker reported mother was participating in her programs and consistently attending unmonitored visits with the children. The court released the children to mother under a plan of family maintenance.

In May 2008, the case was transferred to Orange County because mother and the children moved to the maternal grandfather's home. For the next 18 months, mother participated in her case plan and appeared committed to the children. However, she tested positive for methamphetamine use on three occasions: In October 2008, "she had been at a party with friends . . . and she was tempted and used . . . ."; in February 2009, she had a positive test but denied use; and in August 2009, she "admitted to using methamphetamine while hanging out with some of her friends." Each time, the social worker recommended leaving the children in mother's home. After the August 2009 positive test, however, the juvenile court expressed its concern about the safety of the children in light of mother's failure to make good decisions and exhorted her to make more progress with her services. "When I see this kind of report, I'm concerned for you and your kids, two wonderful girls. You want them to grow up the best that they can be. So you know what you need to do."

In October 2009, mother missed two drug tests. At the second of the two, the monitor reported seeing mother eject a plastic tube of urine from her vagina while purporting to provide a urine sample. The monitor told mother she would not accept the sample because she suspected it was altered. Mother "became hostile, cursed and stormed out of the clinic cursing." After receiving the monitor's report, the social worker detained the children and placed them in Orangewood Children's Home. Subsequently, the social worker discovered that mother had been arrested a few months before but had not reported it.

Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) filed a supplemental petition on November 3, 2009, alleging the children were at risk in mother's care due to missed drug tests, failure to follow her case plan, and failure to inform the social worker of her arrest in June 2009 for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. The older sister ran away from Orangewood two weeks later, and the hearing on the supplemental petition was continued several times while efforts to find her were underway. She was never located, however, and the hearing went forward on May 27, 2010.

In the reports prepared for the hearing, SSA reported mother renewed her efforts to comply with her case plan after the supplemental petition was filed, reenrolling in drug counseling and resuming drug testing. But in February 2010, mother was discharged from her drug treatment program for sporadic attendance and two drug tests that were positive for methamphetamine. She cancelled her visits with A.D. "[m]ore often than not." A.D. exhibited emotional problems, cutting herself with sharp objects and neglecting her schoolwork. She was placed with a foster family in early December 2009.

At the hearing the juvenile court sustained the supplemental petition, which had been amended to remove the allegation that mother tried to fabricate the October 2009 drug test result. Through a comment made by mother's sister to A.D., the social worker learned in June that mother was incarcerated in Los Angeles County. An investigation revealed she had been sentenced to 120 days in custody on June 17 on a felony charge. The disposition hearing was held on June 30, 2010. The juvenile court removed A.D. from mother's custody, approved weekly monitored ...


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