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In Re Serena L.

October 11, 2011


(Super. Ct. No. JD227224)

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

In re Serena L.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Tina E., mother of the minor, appeals from orders of the juvenile court denying her petition for modification and terminating her parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 388, 395.)*fn1 Appellant contends the court abused its discretion in denying her petition and erred in not finding termination would be detrimental to the minor because the minor would benefit from continued contact with her. We affirm.


The 10-month-old minor was removed from appellant's custody in March 2008 after she was found in the care of her intoxicated maternal grandmother.*fn2 The maternal grandmother, a methamphetamine addict, was unconscious and had to be hospitalized. Appellant was intoxicated when she arrived two hours late to pick up the minor. The incident occurred a month after appellant had completed voluntary substance abuse treatment services for methamphetamine addiction. Appellant admitted she had a 10-year polysubstance abuse history. The court sustained the petition and ordered reunification services for appellant.

At the six-month review hearing, the court ordered the minor returned to appellant under supervision. Over the next six months, appellant continued to test negative and appeared to have a commitment to sobriety. The social worker recommended termination of the dependency. However, just prior to the review hearing scheduled in April 2009, the social worker discovered appellant had been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in December 2008. Appellant failed to inform the social worker about the relapse, which occurred a month after appellant completed two outpatient programs. The court ordered continued supervision of the minor in appellant's home.

By the next review report in October 2009, appellant had a second arrest for DUI and was not fully participating in services. The minor appeared to be very bonded to appellant and had no behavioral issues. The court continued supervision.

In December 2009 the social worker filed a section 387 supplemental petition alleging appellant failed to benefit from services and was arrested for a third DUI. An amended petition alleged the existence of the prior DUI convictions and that appellant was discharged from treatment in August 2009 for failure to participate. Appellant's blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for each of her DUI convictions. Appellant began services pending a hearing on the petition, although the social worker recommended termination of services. The court sustained the section 387 petition in April 2010, terminated services, and set a section 366.26 hearing.

Appellant filed a section 388 petition for modification in August 2010 seeking return of the minor or reinstatement of services. Appellant alleged she had completed residential treatment, had entered a transitional living program to continue outpatient treatment, and was testing negative. Appellant had also completed a bonding assessment. Appellant alleged the proposed orders were in the minor's best interests because they had a close bond, and appellant had demonstrated her commitment to recovery and was able to provide a stable home for the minor. The bonding study, performed by Dr. Miller in July 2010, was based in part on information from the foster mother that the minor anticipated visits with appellant and acted out after visits. Dr. Miller concluded the minor saw appellant as her primary parental figure. Dr. Miller noted the minor was developing symptoms of reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and if the disorder did develop, it could have long-term consequences. Dr. Miller concluded that the minor had a substantial positive emotional attachment with appellant and would suffer significant harm and emotional detriment in the short term if the relationship were terminated, and that the harm would likely continue unless the minor developed a strong bond with an adoptive family. Dr. Miller had serious concerns whether the minor was able to form a strong bond with an adoptive family.

The assessment for the section 366.26 hearing stated appellant had regular and consistent visits with the minor. The minor was transitioned into a new home in August 2010 because the prior foster mother was not interested in adoption. The current foster parents had seen no extreme acting out since the transition and viewed the minor's behavior as age appropriate. The assessment concluded the minor was generally adoptable and there was no detriment to the minor in terminating appellant's parental rights.

Dr. Miller performed a second bonding study in September 2010, observing the minor with both appellant and the current foster parents. Dr. Miller found the minor had a positive relationship with both appellant and the foster parents. He concluded the minor still had a substantial positive relationship with appellant and would suffer some harm, on at least a short-term basis, if parental rights were terminated. The minor had developed a close relationship with the current foster parents, and if that developed into a strong bond, then the minor might not suffer long-term detriment. Dr. Miller questioned the accuracy of the current foster parents' reports that the minor did not ask about her mother and did not display extreme behaviors. According to Dr. Miller, if these reports were not accurate, long-term harm from ...

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