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In Re Du. G. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. D.G

January 31, 2012


APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Stanislaus County. Ann Q. Ameral, Judge. (Stanislaus Super. Ct. Nos. 516050, 516051, 516052, 516053)

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

In re Du. G.


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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.




On March 8, 2011, the Family and Children's Services Office of the Stanislaus County Community Services Agency (SCCSA) filed a detention report in superior court recommending that father and mother's four minor children be detained in suitable placement pending further hearings. The SCCSA alleged a failure to protect the children (Welf. & Inst. Code,*fn1 § 300, subd. (b)) and abuse of a sibling (§ 300, subd. (j)).

On March 9, 2011, the court conducted a contested hearing and ordered the detention of the minors in the care and custody of the social worker.

On March 26, 2011, the SCCSA filed a jurisdiction/disposition report recommending that the minors be adjudged dependent children of the court, that they be removed from the custody of their parents, that reunification services be provided to mother but that such services be denied to father.

On April 29, 2011, the court conducted a contested jurisdictional hearing, struck the section 300, subdivision (j) allegation from the petition, found a substantial danger to the minors if they were returned home (§ 361, subd. (c)), and ordered reunification services for both parents.

On May 12, 2011, father filed a timely notice of appeal from the April 29, 2011, order (§ 395; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(2)(B)).


Facts Elicited from the Jurisdiction/Disposition Report and Supporting Service Logs

On February 22, 2011, a mandated reporting party notified the SCCSA that six-year-old Du.*fn2 had sustained a candle burn inflicted by her younger sister, Dej. The referral indicated that father and mother were gone from the family home for 10 minutes while they went to a liquor store. Their four children, ranging in age from five months through six years, were left alone with Du. in charge.

On March 3, 2011, emergency response social worker Nicholas "Nick" Egger investigated the referral. He knocked on the door of the family apartment a number of times but was unable to get a response. While Egger waited for a response, the landlord advised Egger that the apartment is frequently filthy, and that he was evicting the family. The landlord informed Egger that neighborhood children kept cutting themselves on broken glass and several gas tanks that father left outside the house. Later that day, Egger and two Turlock police officers went to the family home. After they knocked on the door for about 30 minutes, father came out. He advised Egger and the officers that he took the medication Trazadone, which made him sleepy. Egger asked father how he cared for the children while he was asleep. Father replied, " 'They are fine.' " Father declined Egger's request to speak with the children and with mother. Father also refused to answer the questions of Egger and the police. That same day, Egger received information from the children's school personnel that Du. was frequently left to care for her younger siblings. School personnel also indicated that Du. sometimes came to school with ill-fitting clothes and dirty hair and skin.

On March 4, 2011, Egger secured a warrant to enter the home of mother and father. That same day he returned to the home with Turlock police officers and attempted to engage mother and father in a conversation. Father was combative and yelled, " 'No one is going into my mother f***ing house.' " Egger reminded mother and father that he had authority to enter the home. Father continued his angry behavior. Egger stepped behind the police officers for protection. Father then walked away from Egger and the two officers, went into the home, and said he was going to sic his pit bulldog on them. Mother asked Egger and the officers to ignore her husband's behavior. She reported he had mental health issues that contributed to his aggression. Mother nevertheless said she was not going to allow anyone to enter her home and went inside. Turlock Police Officer Jeffries stood in the doorway of the home for several minutes and directed mother to cooperate and allow the social worker and officers to enter the home.

Social worker Egger entered the home and found the front room cluttered with dirty clothes on the floor as well as garbage and decaying food. He detected a "bad smell" inside the residence. According to Egger, there was no place to sit on the furniture in the front room, apparently because of the clutter. Father appeared from the kitchen with an adult pit bull and continued to be verbally aggressive. Egger noted the kitchen floor was relatively clean compared with the rest of the home, and there appeared to be sufficient food in the residence. Egger inspected the children's bedroom and found the floor covered with food. Twin mattresses were leaning against the wall and toward the closet. The mattresses were covered with a pile of dirty clothing. Father and mother advised Egger that the children slept with them. When Egger requested to see the room where the children slept, father guarded the doorway and denied Egger entrance. From his vantage point in the hallway, Egger saw that the parents' bedroom was in a condition similar to the living room.

Egger attempted to speak to the children separately and apart from their parents. Father denied Egger's request and insisted that he be present. Egger spoke to six-year-old Du. and reported her "hair was disheveled and dirtied with small pieces of garbage ...." Father stuck out Du.'s arms and repeatedly yelled, " 'See! There aren't any burn marks.' " Egger attempted to question Du., but she remained silent after first looking at her parents. Father grabbed three-year-old Dej. by the arm and brought her to Egger. Egger noted that Dej.'s hair and clothes were also disheveled, and that she appeared scared. Egger asked whether she felt scared, and Dej. nodded her head at Egger. Father yelled, " 'No, she ain't f***ing scared.' " Dej. looked down, and shook her head to indicate " 'no.' " Egger reported that four-year-old Do. also had disheveled hair and dirty clothes. Father called Egger " 'Cracker' " and " 'Red-neck.' " According to Egger's March 7, 2011, report, father said the family did not like " 'white people.' "

Egger asked father and mother if they would submit to random drug testing and they declined. The also stated they would not participate in voluntary services recommended by SCCSA. Egger told father and mother he would return on March 7 to conduct a further assessment of the situation. He gave mother his business card and a brochure about parents' rights. According to Egger's jurisdiction/disposition report, father "came out of the house, grabbed the CRB [brochure] and business card out of [mother's] hand, and threw it."

On March 5, 2011, Egger returned to the family home to place the children in protective custody. Father again engaged in behavior that was aggressive and uncooperative. Turlock police handcuffed him and placed him in a police car. Inside the home, Egger noted clothes still piled up on the floor and rotten food on the ground. Mother attempted to close the door to the residence, stating she was not going to allow social workers and police officers in her home. Officer Jeffries again stuck his foot in the doorway to gain access to the interior of the home. Father told someone " 'not to let them out of your sight.' " The police officers were concerned that the social workers at the scene would be followed. Police arranged for an officer to follow the social workers' car as they left the home.

Social worker Naomi Jimenez changed the clothing and diaper of five-month-old Dev. in preparation for his entry into foster care. Jimenez noted that his clothing was dirty, wet, and carried an odor. Jimenez observed a rash around Dev.'s neck and diaper area, but neither rash required medical attention. Two days later, father told social worker Beth Morrison he did not have a substance abuse problem but did smoke marijuana on a regular basis. He said he last used marijuana about a week earlier. Father said he had an expired medical marijuana card but had no money to renew the card. According to father, he smoked marijuana for cataracts and for back pain caused by a fall down a flight of stairs in prison. Father also told Morrison he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and took the medications Trazadone and Depakote for relief. Father believed his mental health condition had stabilized. On the same date, mother reported to Morrison that she smoked marijuana. She further reported that she last attended a substance abuse treatment program in Merced County.

Prior Dependency Proceeding

The family had extensive history with Child Protective Services in Merced County, and the children were removed from the family home in Merced in December 2007. On February 25, 2008, minors Du. and Do. were adjudged dependent children of the Merced Superior Court. The court ordered reunification services for both parents. On September 29, 2008, the court conducted a section 366.21 review hearing and terminated reunification services as to father, who did not complete his case plan. The superior court issued custody orders for mother and then dismissed the case. At the time of dismissal, mother had successfully completed her case plan objectives. These included a parenting program, homemaking training, substance abuse treatment, and random drug testing. According to the Merced County Status Review Report of September 29, 2008, father refused to engage in his case plan objectives. According to the social worker who helped prepare the report, father told case workers several times, " 'I ain't going to do shit.' " Father told a Merced County social worker he was unwilling to complete the case plan because he was incarcerated when the children were detained. He said he did not feel responsible and would not participate. On October 3, 2008, the Merced Superior Court terminated jurisdiction and placed Du. and Do. in the physical and legal custody of mother.

Testimony of Mother

Mother testified she is the mother of the four minor children. She denied the allegation that Du. had a burn on her finger in February. She also denied that she left the other children in the care of six-year-old Du. when she was not present. She further denied that three-year-old Dej. burned Du. with a candle. Mother acknowledged there were trash cans, broken glass, and abandoned "stuff" in the alley behind her home, and said she unsuccessfully asked her landlord to clean up the glass and debris. She said the alley was as long as half a city block. Mother also said she had cleaned up the trash, including glass, on her side of the alley as recently as the day before her testimony at the jurisdictional hearing.

Mother denied sending Du. to school in ill-fitting clothes and with dirty hair. She did admit that on one occasion, Du.'s belt broke and her pants were loose. Mother said school employees put a string on the pants to hold them in place. She denied receiving any complaints from the school about the condition of Du.'s clothing or hygiene. Mother said she assisted the children in dressing before they went to school and has made sure they have jackets in the cold winter months. Mother acknowledged that on one occasion a teacher advised her that Du. ...

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