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In Re K.P., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Kimberly G. et al.

February 15, 2012

IN RE K.P., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
KIMBERLY G. ET AL. DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. David R. Fields, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK75687)

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

Mother Kimberly G. and father K.P.*fn1 appeal the termination of their parental rights over their son K.P., contending that the juvenile court erred in failing to apply the parent-child relationship exception to the statutory preference for adoption. We find that substantial evidence supported the juvenile court's findings and that the court did not abuse its discretion in declining to apply the exception, and we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

K.P. was detained shortly after his November 2008 birth when drugs and firearms were found at the home where he lived. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a petition alleging that he came within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court under Welfare and Institutions Code*fn2 section 300, subdivision (b). The juvenile court found K.P. a dependent child on January 14, 2009.

According to reports filed by DCFS prior to the section 366.21, subdivision (e) review hearing, K.P. was in good health and was doing well in foster care. Father was incarcerated. Kimberly G. recently had enrolled in a program for substance abusers and her single drug test was negative. Her counseling sessions were on hiatus during summer vacation from school. Kimberly G. had monitored visits four times per week of two hours each. She was attending an occupational training program that conflicted with her visitation schedule, and had changed the schedule of her monitored visits to accommodate that training. Despite the change of schedule at her behest, Kimberly G. had arrived one and one-half hours late for a visit, explaining that she "had other things to do." Kimberly G. had previously arrived late for visits or cut them short.

During visits, Kimberly G. played with K.P., changed him, and fed him. She sang to him and tried to engage him with educational toys. K.P. responded by laughing, clapping his hands, and bouncing up and down in her arms. DCFS wrote, "Mother and child appear to bond well at their visit; however, mother has missed a couple of visits and has cut visits short."

In August 2009, K.P. was placed in the home of his maternal great-grandparents. As of March 2010, DCFS described the home as "a nurturing, safe and healthy environment" for him. Kimberly G. visited three times per week, for approximately four hours per visit. She fed K.P., changed him, played with him, and brought him clothes and toys during visits. K.P. was noted to be bonded with Kimberly G. He called her "Mommy," the same name he called his great-grandmother.

Kimberly G. appeared to DCFS not to be "serious about her compliance with the court orders." She had not documented her attendance at any court-ordered programs. When asked about the services she was receiving, Kimberly G. stated that she could not remember the providers and their phone numbers. She had missed 9 out of 14 drug tests, and had one positive drug test result. DCFS requested that reunification services be terminated.

As of May 2010, DCFS had learned that Kimberly G. had begun a one-year outpatient chemical dependency treatment program in November 2009. She had attended all the required activities of the treatment program, including 25 clinical group sessions and nine individual counseling sessions. She had also submitted documentation showing that she had completed a parenting education course in April 2009. DCFS expressed concern at Kimberly G.'s delay in addressing her substance abuse issues and said that her progress thus far was "minimal." Kimberly G. had missed two recent drug tests in March and April 2010. She continued to visit with K.P. three times per week.

In reports for the court in June 2010, DCFS noted that Kimberly G. had tested positive on May 13, 2010, for opiates, codeine, and morphine, and she missed two following drug tests. The maternal great-grandmother reported that Kimberly G. had never been consistent in meeting a visitation schedule, but showed up unannounced when she wanted a visit. Kimberly G. made better visitation efforts when a hearing date approached. The maternal great-grandmother also told DCFS that Kimberly G. was "responsible in addressing K[.P.]'s needs but does not take action." For instance, when K.P. cried from hunger, Kimberly G. would instruct the maternal great-grandmother to prepare his bottle. When asked to feed K.P., Kimberly G. became aggressive and refused. The maternal great-grandmother stated that she encouraged Kimberly G. to be more involved in K.P.'s care but that Kimberly G. grew agitated and yelled that she did not need to be instructed in what to do for her son. K.P. was bonded to his maternal great-grandparents and identified them as his parents. Kimberly G. was unwilling to live with the great-grandparents in order to reunify with her son, and she had not explored any alternative living arrangements to permit reunification.

On July 13, 2010, the court found that Kimberly G. had partially complied with the case plan but that K.P. could not be returned to her physical custody, and that there existed no substantial probability that K.P. would be returned to her within six months. The court terminated reunification services.

In reports prepared for the section 366.26 hearing, DCFS reported that K.P. demonstrated "a strong emotional attachment to his great-grandparents." He called them "Mama" and "Papa." They wanted to adopt him ...


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