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In Re E.H. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. A.K. et al

December 20, 2011


(Super. Ct. Nos. JD220865, JD221901, JD227113)

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

In re E.H.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

A.K. and D.H., mother and father respectively of the minors, appeal from orders terminating their parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395 [further undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code].) Appellants contend the juvenile court erred in failing to find they had established the benefit and the sibling exceptions to the preference for adoption. Appellants further argue substantial evidence does not support the court's finding that the minors were likely to be adopted within a reasonable time. We affirm.


The Department's*fn1 first contact with the family was in 2004 when the four oldest children were removed from parental custody and services were offered to the parents. The parents successfully completed services and the minors were returned to their custody in April 2006. Multiple contacts and services over the next 18 months were ineffective in improving conditions in the home and appellants' parenting abilities. A nondetaining petition was filed in October 2007 as to E.H. and A.H.

The current removal of all six children was the result of the Department's filing supplemental petitions in 2008 as to the original five minors and an original petition as to newborn S.H.*fn2 At that time, E.H. was eight years old; A.H. was three years old. Services for appellants were ongoing.

The court first terminated reunification services in May 2009 and set a section 366.26 hearing. A bonding study performed by Dr. Wilkenfield in July 2009 concluded that E.H. had a strong positive bond with appellants and it would be detrimental to terminate parental rights. A.H. had a residual emotional connection to appellants but was not so strongly attached that termination of parental rights would be detrimental to her. Similarly, S.H. was not strongly attached to appellants but did recognize them. Both A.H. and S.H. had a strong sibling bond with E.H., which weighed against termination of parental rights as to them.

Appellants filed petitions for modification based on the bonding study. The court reinstituted services and eventually returned two of the other three children to appellant's custody although parenting challenges remained. However, based on reports of domestic violence in the home, those children were removed, and at the next review hearing services were again terminated as to E.H., A.H., and S.H. and a new section 366.26 hearing was set. The court also ordered an updated bonding study.

In the updated assessment in May 2010, Dr. Wilkenfield concluded that E.H. had a significant positive emotional attachment to appellants but had benefitted substantially from a stable consistent placement. E.H. would experience some detriment if parental rights were terminated but would also be relieved to have permanence. In the long term, the advantages of a permanent placement would offset any potential problems E.H. had. In Wilkenfield's opinion, A.H. still felt a connection to appellants, but it was not so strong or significant that there would be significant detriment to her if parental rights were terminated. A.H. saw appellants as friendly visitors, and the foster mother was her primary source of stability. Wilkenfield concluded that appellants were only familiar visitors to S.H. and there would be no significant detriment to her in termination of parental rights. S.H. showed a strong attachment to the foster mother. The minors had been in the same placement for nearly two years by the time of the assessment.

The Department's assessment report stated appellants had consistently visited the minors. Visits were chaotic and had been reduced to once a month for the minors. The three minors were in good health and developmentally on target. E.H. was making good progress in school, and none of the minors needed special services. S.H. appeared to be emotionally bonded to the foster parents and was to begin parent/child interaction therapy (PCIT). A.H. was continuing in therapy as well as PCIT sessions and had experienced positive behavior changes. E.H. was in therapy to address grief and loss issues due to separation from appellants. The current caretakers had an approved homestudy and were committed to adopting the minors. The minors were described as a specifically adoptable sibling set bonded to one another. E.H. stated she wished to be adopted. The social worker recommended termination of parental rights as to the minors and a permanent plan of adoption.

At the section 366.26 hearing in October 2010, E.H. testified that she wanted the judge to decide what would happen; she was only 10 years old and did not know how she felt or what she wanted. Both appellants testified, opposing ...

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