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In Re J.C. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. L.C

November 9, 2011


(Super. Ct. Nos. PDP20100061 & PDP20100062)

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

In re J.C.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Leah C., mother of two minors, appeals from a judgment of disposition adjudging the minors dependents and removing them from her custody. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 356, 358, 361, 395 [undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code].) Mother contends substantial evidence does not support (1) the jurisdictional findings, or (2) the order removing the minors from mother's custody. We disagree, and we will affirm.


The El Dorado County Department of Human Services (Department) removed five-year-old J.C. from mother's custody in May 2010. His eight-year-old sister, L.C., was removed shortly thereafter. The Department filed a petition alleging that J.C. was at a substantial risk of serious physical harm because (1) mother had substance abuse issues and left J.C. with an unsuitable caretaker, i.e., his teenage sibling, C.C, who may have been under the influence of marijuana; (2) mother and C.C. smoked marijuana in the house; (3) mother was offered services and refused to test; and (4) L.C. was at risk of neglect due to mother's substance abuse, failure to participate in services offered to her and lack of judgment in her care of J.C.

According to the detention report, on May 23, 2010, deputies, responding to an unrelated matter on Slug Gulch Road, saw J.C. standing alone in front of his house near the road. In search of a caretaker, one deputy entered the open door of the house and was unable to locate anyone or get a response to his knocking and calling until he walked up to a door where there was a strong smell of marijuana. On opening the door, the deputy was able to rouse C.C., who admitted smoking marijuana the day before. Mother told C.C. she was going shopping, but C.C. did not know J.C. had been left in C.C.'s care. The social worker reported J.C. was wearing a T-shirt, pants and snow boots and had no underwear.

J.C. told the social worker that mother and C.C. "smoke weed." C.C. said she and L.C. frequently stay with the maternal grandmother. The social worker spoke to mother who agreed to drug test but then refused to do so when mother arrived at the test facility. At the initial hearing, the juvenile court ordered mother to test weekly, detained L.C. and J.C., and ordered them to be placed with the maternal grandmother.

The jurisdiction report stated there was a prior referral in February 2010 indicating that mother was using methamphetamine. The social worker responding to that referral asked mother to test but mother refused to do so and the investigation was closed as inconclusive. In the current case, after mother's initial refusal to test, she provided a sample on May 26, 2010. That sample was checked by an "instant test" and found to be positive for marijuana and methamphetamine.*fn1 In June 2010, mother told the social worker she had used methamphetamine since she was 15 years old and needed it to "stop depression." Mother refused to be tested for drugs and refused to be assessed or treated for substance abuse. The social worker tried to refer mother to services but mother refused services, did not visit the minors, and generally refused to cooperate. The social worker assessed that mother's ongoing substance abuse played a role in her poor judgment and placed the minors at risk.

The dispositional report in September 2010 stated mother was still not cooperating and would not provide information to the social worker. As a result, it was not possible for the social worker to tell if mother was capable of caring for the minors. Mother had submitted to only four of 17 drug tests. Of the four tests, only the May 2010 test was positive, the other three tests were negative for drugs. The minors missed mother but were doing well with the maternal grandmother, where they had spent most of their time prior to removal. The social worker concluded that, without an assessment of mother's need for substance abuse treatment and other services, the minors remained at risk if returned to her care. In the social worker's opinion, mother only tested when she wanted to and it was not possible to tell if she was drug free.

At the hearing, Deputy Schlag testified that he saw J.C. on the fenced property not far from an open gate which led to the rural road. J.C. looked like he had dressed himself and no adults were present. The deputy entered the house for a welfare check and smelled marijuana. The strongest odor was coming from the door to the room where C.C. was sleeping. When C.C. came out, the deputy observed that her eyes were "glossy [sic] and bloodshot" and she smelled of marijuana. C.C. admitted to being under the influence of marijuana which she said she had smoked the day before. The deputy believed she had smoked it more recently than that. C.C. told the deputy she did not know where her mother had gone, only that she went shopping.

C.C. testified mother woke her before mother left the house but C.C. went back to sleep and did not know J.C. was in the house until she saw him with the deputy. She had watched J.C. before without ...

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