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In Re A.M., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. M.W. et al

February 24, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JV08500)

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

In re A.M. CA3


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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Mishell W., mother of minor A.M., appeals from orders of the juvenile court denying her petition for modification to reinstate reunification services. (Welf. & Inst. Code,*fn1 §§ 388, 395.) Mother contends the juvenile court abused its discretion in finding that it lacked authority to reinstate services after the statutory period for reunification services had expired. We agree and shall reverse.


In September 2008, minor was detained from his parents at age 11 months due to mother's substance abuse, mental health issues, criminal behavior and failure to protect minor from the father, who was arrested on a warrant. Mother claimed Indian ancestry and it was determined that she was a member of the Pit River Tribe of Burney, California. Minor was eventually enrolled as a member of the tribe.

The juvenile court sustained an amended petition in December 2008 and later ordered mother to participate in reunification services. The court continued services for mother at the six-month review hearing in August 2009 and set a

12-month review hearing for October 2009.

The social worker's review report recommended termination of services. The social worker characterized mother's mental health as "precarious at best" because she was not able to maintain any significant period of stability on medication. Mother's success in substance abuse treatment paralleled her periods of mental health stability. Mother tested positive for marijuana in August 2009. Mother visited minor regularly and visits were generally good with interactive play. The social worker recommended termination of services because mother was only recently becoming stable, attending counseling and participating in substance abuse treatment. Further, based on her history, mother was unlikely to sustain a significant period of stability. At the continued review hearing in December 2009, the court ordered an additional six months of services and increased visits.

The next review report again recommended termination of services for the parents. Mother reported she was pregnant and due in September 2010. Minor had been in the same placement for 16 months. Mother was twice enrolled in, but did not complete, residential treatment, was in an outpatient program, and now felt she needed a higher level of treatment (although she previously stated she did not like residential treatment). Mother was discharged from her collateral programs when she entered residential treatment, so she could not complete other aspects of her plan. There were also concerns about mother's compliance with her medication regime. Mother had twice-weekly visits with minor and interacted appropriately. There were some concerns about mother's ability to parent minor in a community setting since the visit supervisor had to intervene and suggest ways for mother to interact with minor. The foster parents reported that, following the increase in visits, minor's post-visit behaviors escalated. Mother could not demonstrate her ability to live in the community and maintain her recovery and, despite domestic violence classes, had resumed a relationship with the father. After 18 months of services, mother was still unstable and unable to meet minor's needs.

The juvenile court set a contested 18-month review hearing in April 2010. The matter was heard over several days and, in May 2010, the court terminated services and set a section 366.26 hearing.

The report prepared for the section 366.26 hearing recommended termination of parental rights as minor was adoptable. Minor, then three years old, was in good health and developmentally on target. He had no significant mental or emotional issues beyond some shyness. Mother's visits had been decreased to twice a month and the caretakers reported that reducing the frequency of mother's visits seemed to help minor's behavioral issues. Minor had been in his current placement nearly two years and his caretakers expressed a strong desire to adopt him. The report recommended termination of parental rights and a permanent plan of adoption. The court set a contested section 366.26 hearing for November 2010.

Mother filed a petition for modification prior to the section 366.26 hearing, seeking reinstatement of reunification services. She alleged changed circumstances because she had been clean and sober for a year, maintained attendance at A.A. meetings, and now had her infant daughter in her care. She had a temporary restraining order in place against the father and was avoiding contact with him. She was currently attending counseling, classes at Birth and Beyond, and was to begin a Native American domestic violence program. She was compliant with her medications and had stabilized emotionally. She had ...

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