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In Re L.W. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. Samantha S

March 9, 2012


(Super. Ct. Nos. JD230588, JD230589)

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Samantha S., mother of the minors, appeals from orders of the juvenile court terminating her parental rights.*fn1 (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395.)*fn2 Mother contends there was insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's findings that the minors were likely to be adopted in a reasonable time. Mother also contends, as to L.W., that there was a lack of compliance with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) in both accuracy of the notice and inquiry efforts.

We conclude substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's finding that the minors were adoptable, but reverse for further proceedings relating to ICWA for L.W.


The dependency proceedings began in Solano County in August 2007. The case was eventually transferred to Sacramento County in March 2010 and accepted for transfer by Sacramento County in June 2010.

In August 2007, L.W., who was then five months old, was detained due to mother's incarceration, criminal history and substance abuse. Mother identified Kenneth W. as the father of L.W., but the social worker was unable to locate him. In November 2007, the juvenile court ordered reunification services for mother to address the addiction issues that interfered with her ability to raise L.W. The services also included sessions for L.W. with a developmental specialist to address his delays. In time, those developmental services were terminated because L.W. had "progressed nicely." In March 2008, the social worker recommended further reunification services for mother. The juvenile court adopted the recommendation.

In August 2008, mother gave birth to J.K., who was also detained. J.K. was premature and was referred for assessment of possible developmental delays.

The status review report for L.W. in September 2008 recommended termination of mother's services. The report characterized Kenneth W. as an alleged father and stated that mother had said he should not be identified as L.W.'s biological father.

In the October 2008 jurisdiction/disposition report for J.K., the social worker recommended that mother be offered reunification services. The report for J.K. notes case No. FFL 100059, a prior Solano County child support case, for L.W.

At the November 2008 hearing, the parties reached an agreement to extend services to 18 months as to L.W. and to offer six months of services as to J.K. In December 2008, the minors were returned to mother and the juvenile court ordered family maintenance services.

In an April 2009 review report, the social worker stated she had had contact with Kenneth W. for the first time when he accompanied mother to a drug court hearing. Shortly thereafter, mother relapsed into drug use. The minors were removed from her custody and a supplemental petition was filed. A copy of L.W.'s birth certificate identifying Kenneth W. as the father was attached to the petition.

In June 2009, Kenneth W. made his first appearance in L.W.'s case and provided a Parental Notification of Indian Status form, which stated that he may have Indian ancestry through the "maternal grandmother & great-grandmother" (actually his mother and grandmother), but the tribal affiliation was unknown. The Solano County Health and Social Services Department (Solano County Department) requested that the court order Kenneth W. to submit to a paternity test. The court asked Kenneth W. if he opposed a paternity test. His counsel indicated Kenneth W. did oppose it at that point because there were some existing child support orders and there may already have been an existing order regarding paternity.

On July 8, 2009, the court sustained the supplemental petition. Kenneth W. again declined a blood test but asked to be considered a presumed father based on the judgment of paternity. Counsel represented that there was a judgment of paternity in a Solano County child support case, but that he did not have a copy of it. The court apparently attempted to locate the case in its computerized system but found "[t]here's a ton of Ken [W.s]," and could not be sure which was the correct case, even with Kenneth W.'s middle name. The court was apparently unaware of or had forgotten that the October 2008 jurisdiction/disposition report identified the child support case and case number. The Solano County Department had never ...

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