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


February 7, 2012


(Super. Ct. Nos. PDP20100061, PDP20100062)

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

L.C., mother of the minors (mother), appeals from orders of the juvenile court entered at the six-month review hearing. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.21, subd. (e); 395.)*fn1 Mother contends: (1) the court erred in finding services were reasonable; (2) the court erred by not ordering the Department*fn2 to provide transportation assistance for substance abuse treatment services; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support the court's finding of detriment to the minors in returning to mother's care. We conclude there is ample evidence supporting the juvenile court's conclusion that reasonable services were offered and provided to mother. With regard to her claim that the court erred in not ordering further mileage reimbursement for substance abuse treatment services, mother did not request the court to order such assistance and has forfeited this issue. Finally, we conclude there is substantial evidence to support the court's finding of detriment to the minors if they were returned to mother. For these reasons, we affirm.*fn3


The minors, J.C., age five, and L.C., age eight, were removed from mother's custody due to substance abuse, leaving J.C. with an unsuitable caretaker and a prior failure to participate in services. Mother had admitted long-term methamphetamine abuse and tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. Pending disposition, mother did not cooperate with services offered to her and the social worker was unable to assess what would be the level of risk in returning the minors. At disposition in September 2010, the juvenile court adjudged the minors dependents, continued relative placement, ordered a reunification plan for mother, and set an interim review hearing. The reunification plan required mother to participate in a substance abuse evaluation, an out-patient substance abuse treatment program, and random drug testing.

By the interim review hearing in December 2010, mother still was not drug testing. Mother represented that she had transportation issues. The court was not convinced that mother's transportation issues justified no tests for three months. Mother requested mileage reimbursement due to the fact she had no income and reimbursement would make testing feasible. The court authorized the reimbursement. There was no discussion of mother's progress on any other aspect of her plan.

The report for the six-month review hearing stated mother completed her substance abuse evaluation in early January 2011 and began drug treatment groups by the end of the month. In the evaluator's opinion, mother had not been honest in her responses to the evaluation, in part, because she denied all drug use although she previously admitted a history of methamphetamine use. Mother thought the assessment was a waste of time since she was not addicted. Mother was not drug testing on a consistent basis but the tests she provided were negative for drugs and alcohol. Mother had begun a parenting class and individual counseling although neither was an element of her plan. In an interview with a new social worker shortly before the six-month review hearing, mother disclosed she had transportation issues that interfered with her ability to comply with the plan. Mother minimized the issues in the case, continued to blame the Department, showed little insight into how her actions placed the minors at risk, and had only recently been active in participating in services. The report stated that there continued to be a substantial risk of detriment if the minors were returned to mother's care. Mother visited the minors regularly and maintained letter and telephone contact. Mother said the visits were going well. The report recommended offering mother further services.

At the review hearing, mother pointed out to the court that the report did not include her 12 negative tests and active participation in her parenting class. Further, her counseling was only recently authorized. Mother requested unsupervised visits and mileage reimbursement for her treatment programs in addition to what she was receiving for testing. The court discussed both positive and negative aspects of mother's performance in services to date including the gap in testing, failure to provide honest answers in the substance abuse assessment, continued minimization of the issues, and concerns about her ability to recognize safety issues for the minors.

The court asked the Department about additional mileage reimbursement to facilitate mother's participation in services. The Department requested more time to explore what was available from the service providers before any order was entered. When asked about how long it would take the Department to resolve this issue, the Department responded that it would continue to work with mother and that to the extent that transportation became an issue, mother's attorney could bring a motion to the court. The Department was optimistic that transportation was not going to be a problem or barrier to mother.

The court ordered continued reunification services and unsupervised visits. The court found reasonable services were provided and mother had made adequate progress in services. The court also found that return of the minors would create a substantial risk of detriment to their safety or well-being.



Reasonable Services Provided to Mother

Mother argues that reasonable services were not provided because transportation assistance was not offered until the interim hearing order authorized mileage reimbursement for drug testing.

At the six-month review hearing, "[i]f the child is not returned to his or her parent . . . , the court shall determine whether reasonable services that were designed to aid the parent . . . in overcoming the problems that led to the initial removal and the continued custody of the child have been provided or offered to the parent . . . ." (§ 366.21, subd. (e).)

To provide reasonable services, the Department must identify the problems that led to loss of custody, design services to remedy the problems, maintain reasonable contact with the parent, and make reasonable efforts to assist the parent when compliance has proved difficult. (In re Alvin R. (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 962, 972-973.) The question is not whether more or better services could have been provided, but "whether the services were reasonable under the circumstances." (In re Misako R. (1991) 2 Cal.App.4th 538, 547.)

The services identified in the initial case plan were adequate to address the problems that led to removal, i.e., substance abuse. It was not until the interim hearing in December 2010 that mother indicated she needed financial assistance to comply with the drug testing requirement. It is notable that, while the court did order mileage reimbursement, it was not convinced that mother's financial problems justified her total lack of participation in the case plan. Mother did not request mileage reimbursement for other services at the interim hearing. Ample evidence supports the court's conclusion that reasonable services were offered and assistance was provided when mother indicated she needed it. (In re Angelia P. (1981) 28 Cal.3d 908, 924; In re Jason L. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1206, 1214.)


Transportation Assistance for Substance Abuse Treatment Services

Mother also contends the court erred in failing to order further mileage reimbursement as to the substance abuse treatment services. This issue did not arise until near the end of the six-month review period in an interview with the new social worker.

At the six-month review hearing, the Department represented that there were potentially several alternatives for resolving mother's transportation problem and that the alternatives would be explored. Because the evidence was incomplete on an issue that had been raised at the hearing, the court properly permitted the parties to explore the alternatives rather than making a ruling that might not be the best solution. If the discussions did not prove fruitful in solving the transportation problem, mother could have returned to the court for a further hearing. The juvenile court properly deferred ruling on an issue that was not fully before it and as to which no ruling might ever be needed. In any case, by failing to make an effort to have the court actually rule on the point, mother has forfeited it. (People v. Heldenburg (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d. 468, 474.)


Substantial Evidence of Detriment to Minors

Mother contends substantial evidence did not support the court's finding of detriment to the minors' safety and well-being if they were returned to her care. She points to the many negative tests she provided, the positive visits she had with the minors, and her participation in court-ordered services as well as additional services such as parenting and individual counseling, which were not specifically required by her plan.

At the six-month review hearing, the court must return the child to the physical custody of his or her parent unless the court finds that returning the child to his or her parent "would create a substantial risk of detriment to the safety, protection or physical or emotional well-being of the child. . . . The failure of the parent . . . to participate regularly and make substantive progress in court-ordered treatment programs shall be prima facie evidence the return would be detrimental." (§ 366.21, subd. (e).) "[T]he court . . . shall consider the efforts or progress, or both, demonstrated by the parent . . . and the extent to which he or she availed himself or herself to services provided." (§ 366.21, subd. (e).)

When the sufficiency of the evidence to support a finding or order is challenged on appeal, even where the standard of proof in the trial court is clear and convincing, the reviewing court must determine if there is any substantial evidence -- that is, evidence that is reasonable, credible and of solid value -- to support the conclusion of the trier of fact. (In re Angelia P., supra, 28 Cal.3d at p. 924; In re Jason L., supra, 222 Cal.App.3d at p. 1214.) In making this determination we recognize that all conflicts are to be resolved in favor of the prevailing party and that issues of fact and credibility are questions for the trier of fact. (In re Jason L., supra, at p. 1214; In re Steve W. (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 10, 16.) The reviewing court may not reweigh the evidence when assessing the sufficiency of the evidence. (In re Stephanie M. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 295, 318-319.)

The court recognized mother's recent successes in services, but also noted some troubling deficiencies including her lack of candor at the substance abuse assessment, her minimization of the seriousness of her conduct and her substance abuse issues, her lack of insight, and the fact that she had just begun serious participation in services. Until some of these deficiencies were resolved, the minors remained at risk in her care. Substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's order continuing the minors in relative placement.


The orders of the juvenile court are affirmed.

We concur: BLEASE , Acting P. J. BUTZ , J.

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