IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (Sacramento)
September 15, 2011
IN RE S.S. ET AL., PERSONS COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. SACRAMENTO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
C.S., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.
(Super. Ct. Nos. JD229184 & JD229185)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murray , J.
In re S.S.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
Appellant C.S., mother of minors K.L. and S.S. (collectively, the minors), appeals from the juvenile court's orders terminating her parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395.)*fn1 Appellant claims there was insufficient evidence to support the court's finding that K.L. was adoptable. We conclude there is substantial evidence supporting the court's finding and affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On February 9, 2009, the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) filed section 300 petitions on behalf of K.L. (then age six) and her half-sister, S.S. (then age two), alleging that their parents had failed to provide adequate care and protection for the minors based on the living conditions in their home and S.S.'s father's substance abuse problem. The minors were declared dependent children of the court and placed together in a foster home, and reunification services were provided.
In August 2009, the Department reported that S.S. had adjusted well in her placement. Around the same time, the Department reported that K.L., for the most part, had also adjusted well. She had established a positive relationship with the foster parents and was well liked by the family members. However, K.L. had temper tantrums, was defiant, and occasionally engaged in power struggles with her foster parents. On the other hand, she had no behavioral issues at school. She was developmentally on target but had enuresis and wet the bed daily. She was referred to individual counseling to address issues of attachment, neglect, adjustment in foster care, parental substance abuse, role reversal, and child-parent relationships. The therapist sought first to improve K.L.'s coping skills to decrease her tantrums and to improve K.L.'s enuresis. Other behaviors, such as lying, manipulation and anger management, were to be addressed in the future.
In March 2010, the Department reported that K.L. and S.S. were still placed together in the same foster home. S.S. was continuing to do well in placement. Prior to her detention, K.L. had very poor school attendance and was repeating first grade. She was now attending regularly and doing well academically. She was still struggling with enuresis but was otherwise healthy. She was reported to have adjusted nicely to her placement and her demeanor was relaxed and comfortable. She was said to be defiant and to have outbursts of anger, behaviors that were described as coping mechanisms from underlying issues. For example, she could go days without incident and then act out by talking back to her foster parents or by getting into a power struggle with them. There had also been an incident in September 2009 wherein K.L. had stolen $5 from a classmate. She was continuing in therapy to increase her ability to utilize coping skills so as to decrease aggressive behavior and tantrums.
Reunification services for K.L.'s father were terminated on April 22, 2010. Reunification services for appellant and S.S.'s father were terminated on July 8, 2010.
In October 2010, the Department filed a status report for the section 366.26 hearing, which was ultimately held on January 4, 2011. The Department reported that both minors were still placed together in the foster home in which they had originally been placed. S.S. was doing well. K.L. still struggled with enuresis but was otherwise healthy and developmentally on target. She was able to entertain herself and do simple chores. At times, she was still impulsive and defiant at home, but she did not act out at school. She was doing well academically, socialized appropriately, and was described as "bright" and "outgoing." She remained in therapy to address concerns of lying and challenging authority.
The current foster parents did not want to adopt either minor. They are experienced foster parents, and the primary reason they had no desire to adopt is that they wanted to continue to provide foster care.*fn2 They also noted that K.L.'s behaviors had been difficult to handle. S.S.'s paternal relatives, however, were committed to adopting both minors and were visiting regularly. They have known K.L. and spent family time with her since before S.S. was born. The Department was awaiting the results of the home assessment and criminal screening.
By the January 4, 2011 hearing, the prospective adoptive parents had participated in overnight and extended holiday visits with the minors. K.L.'s enuresis and behaviors were fully disclosed to the prospective adoptive parents.*fn3 They remained committed to adopting the minors. The assessment process had been completed except for the final interview and the physical examinations of the prospective adoptive parents.
The juvenile court found both minors were likely to be adopted and terminated parental rights.
Appellant contends there is insufficient evidence to find K.L. generally adoptable. We disagree.
At a section 366.26 hearing, adoption is the preferred permanent plan. (In re Ronell A. (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 1352, 1368.) "In order for the court to select and implement adoption as the permanent plan, it must find, by clear and convincing evidence, the minor will likely be adopted if parental rights are terminated." (In re Tabatha G. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1159, 1164.)
"We review the factual basis of a termination order to determine whether the record contains substantial evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could find a factual basis for termination by clear and convincing evidence." (In re Lukas B. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1145, 1154 (Lukas B.).) "'All conflicts must be resolved in favor of the respondent and all legitimate inferences indulged in to uphold the [order], if possible. Where there is more than one inference which can reasonably be deduced from the facts, the appellate court is without power to substitute its deductions for those of the trier of fact . . . .'" (In re Jason L. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1206, 1214.)
"The issue of adoptability posed in a section 366.26 hearing focuses on the minor, e.g., whether the minor's age, physical condition, and emotional state make it difficult to find a person willing to adopt the minor. [Citations.] Hence, it is not necessary that the minor already be in a potential adoptive home or that there be a proposed adoptive parent 'waiting in the wings.'" (In re Sarah M. (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1642, 1649 (Sarah M.).) However, "a prospective adoptive parent's willingness to adopt generally indicates the minor is likely to be adopted within a reasonable time either by the prospective adoptive parent or by some other family." (Sarah M., supra, 22 Cal.App.4th at p. 1650.)
Here, the juvenile court found K.L. was likely to be adopted within a reasonable time. She is young and in good health, with the exception of unresolved enuresis. She has no developmental delays. She is bright, gets good grades, has good social skills, helps her classmates, and is pleasant in school. She is able to entertain herself and do her chores. Although she can be challenging and somewhat defiant at home, she does not act out at school. The temper tantrums reported shortly after her detention were no longer being presented as an issue. She was in the same foster home for the almost two years she had been detained, and that foster family had never requested she be removed from the home. She had been caught stealing twice over the previous two years and has a tendency to lie, but that (along with her continued defiance) is being addressed in therapy.*fn4 The juvenile court did not find K.L.'s behavior far beyond normal limits for a child her age, nor did it consider her behavior so troublesome so as to render her unadoptable. The evidence supports that finding.
Furthermore, a potential adoptive home has already been located for K.L. and her sibling, S.S. The fact that prospective adoptive parents are interested in and seeking adoption of both minors, despite full disclosure of K.L.'s behavior, having known her for many years, and having extended overnight visits with the minors, is further evidence that K.L.'s characteristics are not likely to dissuade individuals from adopting her. (See Sarah M., supra, 22 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1649-1650; see also Lukas B., supra, 79 Cal.App.4th at p. 1154.)
Additionally, Lajuannah Sandles, the adoptions social worker, opined that K.L.'s behavior would not pose a barrier to locating an adoptive home should the identified prospective adoptive parents not proceed with adoption. Although Sandles indicated it may take some additional time to locate other adoptive parents because K.L. was part of a sibling set and had behavioral issues that would require full disclosure, there would be other individuals interested in adopting the minors.
In sum, the juvenile court's finding of K.L.'s adoptability is supported by substantial evidence.
The orders of the juvenile court are affirmed.
We concur: NICHOLSON , Acting P. J. BUTZ , J.