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In Re J.W., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. S.W


January 13, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JD230134)

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

In re J.W.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

S.W., father of minor J.W., appeals from the juvenile court's orders after disposition. He contends the juvenile court erred by assuming jurisdiction over the minor in the absence of substantial evidence the minor was at risk of abuse or neglect. We affirm.


The relevant facts in this case begin at the end of 2005, when minor J.W.'s sibling, R.W., was born in Hawaii. R.W. was brought to the hospital when she was 10 days old with sensational bruising to her face. Mother was not home at the time of the injury. Father claimed R.W. had rolled off the bed, and he caught her by the face as she was falling. The family was provided voluntary case management services as a result of the incident.

When R.W. was three months old, she was found to have bruising on both ears. The parents claimed she had either fallen off the couch or had pinched her own ears. R.W. was later found to have 20 rib fractures and a fractured femur, and was taken into protective custody. The parents provided no explanation for her injuries, which medical experts concluded were caused by squeezing of the thorax between the first and eleventh weeks of R.W.'s life.

The family received more than 25 months of services and were deemed "treatment failures." There was minimal participation by the parents, and mother stated she was not engaging in services because she was "too busy." In January 2008 the parental rights as to R.W. were terminated because of the parents' failure to make any progress in their case plan to reunify with the child. Minor J.W. was born not long after and immediately taken into protective custody.

On November 26, 2008, J.W. was returned to his parents' custody under a plan of supervision. The parents' home was considered "minimally safe with services in place." The parents left Hawaii in December 2008 but did not contact anyone for services until after San Diego County social workers began visiting several months later. They claimed services were difficult because of mother's periods of absence occasioned by her position in the military. Father stated he would engage in services when mother returned.

In May 2009 eye hemorrhaging was discovered during a well child medical visit. An ophthalmologist reported that a possible abnormality of the blood vessels had caused the hemorrhaging. Meanwhile, on June 30, 2009, San Diego County rejected the ICPC*fn1 request for courtesy supervision because of the "liability" and high risk for the child in the home. Mother was deployed as part of her military service, and on August 4, 2009, Hawaii closed its case file due to limitations of services and compliance, and an assessment that the family was able to maintain "a marginally safe home."

The hemorrhaging in the minor's eyes continued to be investigated. Two weeks after Hawaii closed its case file, a bump was discovered on J.W.'s head during an eye appointment. At a medical appointment a few days after that, on August 20, 2009, the doctor noted petechiae on J.W.'s forehead. Told by father that J.W. had fallen, the doctor remarked that the injury "looked strange because it consisted of a bunch of little red dots and not bruising." Father stated it was because the minor fell on the carpet and claimed the minor fell a lot. J.W. was noted to be very sedate for an 18-month-old child.

Also on August 20, 2009, a medical expert ruled out the possibility of a genetic disorder as the cause of J.W.'s eye hemorrhaging, but could not rule out abuse as the hemorrhaging was of a kind not normal for nonaccidental trauma. The following day, a skeletal survey revealed a minimally displaced fracture of the radial head of the minor's left arm. A medical expert indicated the fracture was consistent with nonaccidental or inflicted trauma. Two medical experts found it could have been caused by an accidental "buckle fall." The parents had no explanation for how the eye hemorrhaging or broken arm had occurred.

J.W. was taken into protective custody in San Diego County on August 21, 2009, based on his fractured arm. The petition was subsequently dismissed and the child was returned to the parents' custody on August 27, 2009.

A few days later, the parents moved to Sacramento County. Shortly thereafter J.W. was taken into protective custody again, based on an open referral for physical abuse from San Diego County. When the social worker visited the parents' home, mother was evasive. When she eventually answered the door, she hid her identity. After later admitting who she was, she spoke so loudly in asking what the social worker wanted that it drew the attention of neighbors. She continued using her very loud voice throughout the interview, during which she denied any mistreatment of her child, stated the social worker should not be concerned since San Diego County had returned the minor to her and father, and prompted father what to say.

Two days later, mother was interviewed again. When asked about J.W.'s eye hemorrhages, mother stated the minor had been seen by an ophthalmologist in July 2009 and it had been determined that the hemorrhaging was due to an abnormality, not injury or trauma. When asked about J.W.'s arm fracture, mother replied, "I wasn't there," and as he was not favoring his left arm she was not aware there was anything wrong. With respect to the bump on the minor's head, she was not there when it occurred but relayed that father reported J.W. had fallen off a riding toy. Mother again spoke very loudly at the interview. She also brought a copy of the detention report from San Diego County, wherein she stated that she felt father did harm R.W. in anger and frustration over R.W.'s colic. When asked about this statement, mother responded, "Don't you believe that people can change?" Mother admitted to one instance of domestic violence between her and father that occurred after R.W. was detained. Father had been jailed for 90 days.

Father was also interviewed. He denied knowing how the eye hemorrhaging had occurred. He suggested that J.W. might have fallen and fractured his arm. He stated he would be willing to participate in services. The following day, September 9, 2009, father reported that mother had been deployed to Japan for a minimum of six months.

Investigation regarding J.W.'s eye hemorrhaging continued. Abnormal blood vessels were ruled out. One medical expert believed head trauma could be the cause of the hemorrhage. Another expert agreed that the specific type of hemorrhage was not normal for nonaccidental trauma. Yet another expert stated he was unable to determine the cause of the hemorrhage.

The contested jurisdiction hearing took place on March 9, 2010. The juvenile court sustained the petition under section 300, subdivisions (a), (b), and (j), as amended, which alleged that the minor was at substantial risk for physical harm, abuse, and/or neglect based on (1) father's severe physical abuse of R.W., (2) the injuries incurred by his sibling R.W., (3) the parents' failure to make substantial progress in their case plans, (4) the parents' failure to acknowledge their responsibility for the serious harm to R.W., and (5) mother's admission that she believed father had caused the injuries to R.W. but continued to allow father unsupervised access to J.W.


Father contends the juvenile court erred in assuming jurisdiction over J.W. We disagree.

Much of the argument at trial and on appeal is centered on Hawaii's and San Diego County's decisions to return J.W. to the parents' custody. Such decisions are irrelevant to the analysis here. However, we note that the Hawaii court returned J.W. to the parents with supervision, deeming the arrangement "minimally safe," and closed its case after the parents relocated to San Diego and mother was deployed -- due to limitations of services and compliance. Again, the home was deemed "marginally safe." Furthermore, Hawaii closed its file before J.W.'s eye hemorrhage was fully investigated, before the bump was discovered on J.W.'s head, before the petechiae occurred, and before J.W.'s fractured arm was discovered.

With respect to San Diego County, it is unclear from the record (yet also irrelevant) why San Diego County dismissed the petition and returned the minor to the parents on August 27, 2009.*fn2 We further note that it seems inconsistent for San Diego County Child Welfare Services to deem the case a "liability" and too high risk to accept an ICPC from Hawaii, yet dismiss the petition and return the minor to the parents a few months later. However, the record is not clear whether it was San Diego County Child Welfare Services or San Diego County Superior Court that dismissed the petition.

In any event, the relevant determination here is whether there was substantial evidence to support the juvenile court's jurisdictional findings.

Section 300, subdivision (a) provides in part that a child comes within the juvenile court's jurisdiction if "[t]he child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm inflicted nonaccidentally upon the child by the child's parent . . . ." Subdivision (b) of section 300, as relevant here, provides for jurisdiction if serious physical harm or a substantial risk of such harm results from the failure of the parent to adequately supervise or protect the child. Section 300, subdivision (j) provides for jurisdiction over a minor whose sibling has been abused or neglected when the minor is at risk of being abused or neglected.

Our review of the sufficiency of the evidence is limited to whether the judgment is supported by any substantial evidence, contradicted or uncontradicted, that will support the conclusion reached by the trier of fact. (In re Christina T. (1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 630, 638-639.) Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, we find that substantial evidence supports jurisdiction in this case.

The evidence supports the finding that R.W. was severely abused as an infant, sustaining 20 rib fractures, a fractured femur, and sensational bruising to her face at the hands of one or both of her parents. Yet despite 25 months of services, parents failed to make any progress -- never even accepting their responsibility for the harm to the infant. Indeed, mother believes she has been cleared of any responsibility for the harm to R.W. Mother did not focus on continuing her services but, rather, focused on her relationship with father. Parents were deemed "'treatment failures for their inability to gain insight and utilize services, visitations, and parenting issues.'"

J.W. was born shortly after the termination of their parental rights to R.W. During mother's pregnancy with J.W., parents had attempted to deceive the social worker and/or the court in Hawaii into falsely believing they were separated and getting divorced. Also during her pregnancy, mother did not follow up on a failed glucose test (which helps diagnose gestational diabetes), placing fetal organ development at risk, and failed to get her RhoGAM shot (required because of her Rh negative blood factor), placing herself and the minor at risk.

Although the parents made some progress during the first nine months of J.W.'s initial detention, they did not complete their services. When J.W. was returned to their care with a plan of services and supervision, the parents relocated to San Diego and failed to engage in services. Six months had passed when physicians began noting injuries to J.W., including hemorrhaging of his eyes, a bump on his head, petechiae on his forehead, and a fractured radial head of his left arm.

Parents continued to demonstrate indifference to services even after J.W. was detained by Sacramento County. By January 2010 mother had yet to engage in any services and father claimed to have been engaging in some services but had not shown any verification of that or provided any information as to which services he had completed. Instead, he emphasized that services were only voluntary at that point in time.

A parent's past conduct is probative of current conditions if there is reason to believe the conduct will continue. (In re Y.G. (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 109, 115-116.) Depending on the circumstances, a parent's abuse of a sibling or failure to protect a sibling may tend to prove that the parent suffers from characteristics that also place the subject child at substantial risk of similar abuse. (Ibid.)

Here, in light of the parents' history with R.W., including the serious injuries sustained by R.W. and the parents' complete failure in services to address that abuse; the injuries to J.W., which were, at the very least, highly suspicious for abuse; and the parents' continued indifference to services, the juvenile court could reasonably conclude that J.W. was at risk for physical harm in the custody of his parents.

Substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's finding of jurisdiction.


The judgment is affirmed.

We concur: NICHOLSON , J. HULL , J.

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