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In Re P.C., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Y.C

September 8, 2011


Trial Court: Alameda County Superior Court Trial Judge: Hon. David Krashna (Alameda County Super. Ct. No. OJ10014922)

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


Shortly after Y.C. (mother) gave birth to P.C., the Alameda County Social Services Agency (the agency) filed a petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300*fn1 on behalf of P.C. Subsequently, the juvenile court held a permanency planning hearing pursuant to section 366.26. The court found by clear and convincing evidence that P.C. was adoptable and likely to be adopted within a reasonable period of time and terminated mother's parental rights. Mother appeals and contends that P.C. is not adoptable because of her multiple severe medical problems. We affirm the judgment.


On May 26, 2010, shortly after mother gave birth to P.C., the agency filed a petition pursuant to section 300, subdivisions (b) and (g), on behalf of P.C. Under subdivision (b) of section 300, the petition alleged that mother had mental problems impacting her ability to provide suitable care for P.C. The petition stated the following: "a. After giving birth to the minor, hospital staff . . . expressed concern regarding the mother's ability to interact appropriately with staff about the ongoing needs of the minor by participating in her medical care when appropriate; [¶] b. The mother claims to have found God and believed all social workers are liars[.]" The petition further alleged that P.C. was medically fragile and weighed only four pounds and eight ounces at birth. She had difficulty eating and was experiencing respiratory problems. The petition added that P.C. had "extensive medical problems" requiring "intubation for a critical airway[,]" had "respiratory problems and" needed "a nasal cannula[,]" had "to be fed through a feeding tube[,]" needed "continued medical observation" and had to "be transported by trained medical staff[,]" had to be "in a facility that" could "manage her care 24/7[,]" and was "trach dependent."

Under section 300, subdivision (b), the petition also alleged that mother had an extensive history with the child protection services and had five other children; none of the children lived with her. It noted that mother was homeless and lived in a shelter. Mother also failed to sign the consent for P.C.'s surgery despite being informed of P.C.'s medical needs. Under subdivision (g) of section 300, the petition alleged that mother was no longer living at the shelter and her whereabouts were unknown.

The agency filed a detention report, and requested that the court detain P.C. The report indicated that mother had a history of poor mental health and substance abuse since the age of 13. Mother, according to the report, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and as being bipolar; she was not compliant with her psychotropic medication. Mother had tested positive for cocaine about two weeks prior to the filing of the detention report. The report also pointed out that mother had two of her other children removed from her care and permanently placed due to her substance abuse and chronic homelessness.

The court held a detention hearing on May 27, 2010. The court ordered P.C. detained and committed her to the care, custody, and control of the agency to be placed in a suitable family home or private institution.

The agency filed an amended petition on June 7, 2010. The petition alleged that P.C. came within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court under subdivisions (b) and (j) of section 300. Under subdivision (b), the amended petition reiterated the allegations set forth in the original petition and added that both mother and P.C. tested positive for cocaine. It further alleged that P.C.'s "birth was complicated by Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR) and multiple prenatal drug exposures, including alcohol, as evidenced by the minor's overlapping features with fetal valproate and fetal cocaine syndrome, abnormal corpus callosum with mild ventriculomegaly, short midface with down slanting palpebral sissures, large fontanel, and low set ears, all consistent with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome."

Under section 300, subdivision (j), the amended petition alleged that P.C.'s siblings had been abused or neglected. It noted that two of mother's children had been removed from her care in 1999 and 2000 because of mother's substance abuse problem. Mother's reunification services were terminated and both children were "permanently planned and [placed in a] legal guardianship with the maternal grandmother . . . ." In 2005, another child was removed from mother's care due to her substance abuse problem and mother was denied reunification services. That child also had been placed in the home of the maternal grandmother and the agency was recommending adoption of the minor. Finally, the petition asserted that a warrant was issued to have P.C. "placed on police hold at Children's Hospital Oakland due to the mother's refusal and inability to provide for the child's numerous and serious medical needs; the minor's inability to feed and breathe on her own as a result of the mother's drug usage during pregnancy; the minor's trach dependency, and the doctor's assessment that the minor needed to have a surgical procedure performed under anesthesia." The petition noted that mother had left the hospital and her whereabouts were unknown.

The agency filed its jurisdiction/disposition report on June 10, 2010. The agency recommended that P.C. be adjudged a dependent of the court and that reunification services be denied to mother. It added that mother's whereabouts were unknown and mother never identified the whereabouts or name of the father of P.C. The petition stated that P.C. would remain an in-patient at the hospital for at least another four weeks from the date of the filing of the report and that it was expected that she would be transported to the recovery center, a facility that provides around the clock care for medically fragile infants. The report noted that P.C. was born very small for her gestational age, and doctors expressed concern that the circumference of her head was not growing. However, she did respond to being bathed, loved to be in the water, had gained two pounds, and was receiving a lot of loving attention from the staff as she appeared to be a favorite.

The agency provided the following assessment of P.C. in the report: "The baby has a strong will and her own little personality despite being so ill, and she opens her eyes to sounds and loves to be held. She had a grim prognosis, but this little girl might fool everyone and one should never give up despite how the situation looks right now. [P.C.] is still here, and she will eventually thrive and grow, in spite of this rather traumatic entrance into this life. The undersigned holds out hope for this little one, that the best family in the world will adopt her, cherish her, love her and make her whole."

The court held the contested jurisdiction/disposition hearing on July 14, 2010. At the end of the hearing, the court declared P.C. a dependent. It denied reunification services to mother, ordered adoption as the permanent plan goal, and directed the agency to prepare an adoption assessment. The court also directed the agency to file an amended petition. An amended petition filed on July 26, 2010, eliminated references to prenatal drug exposure, but otherwise set forth the same allegations included in the first amended petition.

On September 29, 2010, the court held a hearing on the agency's due diligence and found that that the agency had exercised due diligence in attempting to locate mother and the alleged father of P.C. Subsequently, the alleged father filed a statement regarding parentage. He declared that he was not the parent of P.C. and that he did not wish to participate in the juvenile court proceedings.

The agency filed its section 366.26 report on November 23, 2010. The agency recommended that parental rights be terminated so that P.C. could be adopted. It disclosed that mother was opposed to adoption. It observed that mother refused to identify the biological father and the man listed as the father in hospital records stated that he was not the biological father. Thus, the agency declared that it could not identify the biological father of P.C. The report indicated that an adoption assessment for P.C. was completed on November 4, 2010, by Child Welfare Worker Amy Dooha and Child Welfare Adoptions Supervisor Renee Cage. Dooha and Cage concluded that P.C. was adoptable, although there was no identified adoptive family at the time the report was written. The agency also acknowledged that P.C. has serious medical issues. It stressed that Adoption Placement Specialist Wayne Luk maintained that adoptive families had been found for children with similar medical problems, and that an adoptive family could be found for P.C.

With regard to P.C.'s health, the agency stated in the report that P.C. still needed a tracheostomy tube to breathe. It added that she would need surgery on her airway to breathe on her own, but surgery could not be done until she was older, probably 12 to 18 months. She was unable to suck or swallow on her own. She also had surgery for glaucoma in both eyes. The report indicated that she appeared to have some vision, but it was not clear how much vision she currently had or may have in the future. It noted that another eye surgery was planned for December 2010.

The report set forth the following additional medical issues related to P.C.: "[R]ight choanal stenosis (unusually small nasal passage), small larynx, filum cyst (cyst on the spinal cord), ventriculomegaly (dilated vessels in the brain), mid face hypoplasia (underdevelopment), middle ear opacification, Micrognatha (undersized jaw), absent maxillary sinuses, Hemoglobin C trait, and abnormal corpus callosusm (missing a portion of the brain that normally connects the two hemispheres)." It ...

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