APPEALS from orders of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, Zeke Zeidler, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK68187)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mosk, J.
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
We hold that under the doctrine of disentitlement, mother has forfeited her right to appeal from the juvenile court's orders because she willfully left the jurisdiction with her children while the Welfare and Institutions Code section 300*fn1 petition was pending and, even though a warrant for her arrest had been recalled, her continued absence from the jurisdiction undermined and frustrated the juvenile court's ability to implement the dependency law procedures intended to protect and benefit the interests of her children. We therefore dismiss the appeals.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On May 18, 2007, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a petition under section 300, subdivisions (b) and (d) alleging that the father of children A.M., E.M., and G.M. (father) had been sexually abusing C.G., the daughter of his long-time sexual companion, from the time C.G. was age nine through age 16. According to DCFS, father "repeatedly, forcibly rap[ed] [C.G.] . . . ." DCFS alleged that father "frequently fondled [C.G.'s] breasts, thighs, buttocks and vagina." DCFS further alleged that defendant and appellant G.N., the mother of the three children (mother), "knew of the sexual abuse of [C.G.] but . . . failed to protect [her] children in that the mother allowed . . . father to reside in [her] children's home and have unlimited access to [her] children." DCFS concluded that father's sexual abuse of C.G. and mother's failure to protect her children endangered their physical and emotional health and safety and placed them at risk of "physical and emotional harm, damage, danger, [and] sexual abuse . . . ."
In a May 18, 2007, detention report, DCFS reported that a separate section 300 petition had been sustained against father for sexually abusing his "stepdaughter" C.G. from the age of nine, i.e., for a seven-year period. According to the report, father was currently residing with mother and their three children, A.M., E.M., and J.M. A children's social worker (CSW) interviewed the three children, mother, and father. Each of the children denied that father had abused them. Mother stated that she did not believe father abused C.G. and informed the CSW that C.G. "was stealing from her mother, using drugs, and [was] sexually promiscuous . . . ." Nevertheless, mother agreed that if father needed to leave the children's home, she would "do whatever [was] required of her." Mother also informed the CSW that she was considering taking her children to Mexico, and father could "sort out his problems here." Father told the CSW he did not sexually abuse C.G. and notwithstanding that a petition alleging such sexual abuse had been sustained by the juvenile court, he hoped to prevail on his appeal from the order sustaining that petition. But father agreed to leave the home, enter counseling, and follow the orders of the juvenile court.
In a June 18, 2007, disposition report, a CSW reported that mother admitted she learned about the allegations of father's sexual abuse of C.G. a year earlier in June 2006. Nevertheless, she allowed father to move back into the home for approximately eight months until a CSW came to their home in May 2007 and told father to leave. According to mother, she did not believe C.G.'s allegations that father sexually abused C.G. But when reminded by the CSW that the allegations of sexual abuse against father had been sustained by the juvenile court in the separate case involving C.G., mother acknowledged that it was possible that father had sexually abused C.G. Mother nevertheless denied that father had sexually abused any of her three children. Mother also complained that all the visits by CSWs interrupted the children's lives. As a result, mother was considering returning to her hometown in Mexico with the children.
The CSW who interviewed father reported that he denied sexually abusing C.G., despite the juvenile court's finding that C.G.'s allegations were true. When asked why he was not attending a sexual abuse perpetrators group as he had agreed, father explained that "it was affecting [him] to hear all [the] things about sexual abuse because [he was] not a perpetrator." He agreed, however, to attend the classes if it would enable him to see his children. According to father, he wanted his three children--A. M., E.M., and J.M.--"to be with [mother] and [him]."
The CSW further reported that on May 15, 2007, DCFS had a meeting to create a safety plan. The entire family attended the meeting. Under the agreed-upon safety plan, the children would be detained from father and left in mother's care, mother would protect the children and not allow father to reside in the home, mother and the children would attend individual therapy to address case issues, mother would enroll in sex abuse awareness and parent education counseling, and father would enroll in sex abuse counseling for perpetrators. The children were released to mother, and father was to have monitored visits with the children in a DCFS office or a neutral setting with a DCFS approved monitor.
At the June 18, 2007, pretrial conference, both mother and father appeared and were represented by counsel. The juvenile court set the matter for a contested jurisdiction and disposition hearing on June 25, 2007. At the June 25, 2007, hearing, mother and father again appeared and were represented by counsel. The juvenile court continued the matter to August 6, 2007, so that documents from the separate case involving father's sexual abuse of C.G. could be obtained and considered.
On July 30, 2007, DCFS filed a request for protective custody warrants. According to DCFS, mother had checked A.M. and E.M. out of their respective schools on June 21 and 30, 2007. In addition, the manager at the family's apartment complex confirmed that the family moved out of their apartment on June 30, 2007. And, father's employees reported that he told them he was going to Mexico for a vacation for approximately 30 days. On August 2, 2007, the juvenile court issued protective custody warrants for A.M., E.M., and J.M. The juvenile court also issued arrest warrants for mother and father and set bail at $500,000 for each parent.
Over the next two and a half years, the juvenile court held six
month review hearings to determine if there was any new information on
the whereabouts of the children and their parents.*fn2
In a February 24, 2010, interim review report, DCFS advised the
juvenile court that the children were residing with their parents in
the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. According to DCFS, based on an address
in Mexico it had obtained for mother, DCFS requested DIF*fn3
in Mexico to initiate an international home study of that
location. On January 22, 2010, a CSW followed up with DIF and was
informed that the family was residing at the address provided and that
during the DIF social worker's first contact with the family, father
was in the home, but mother denied father was living there. The DIF
social worker reported that the children were attending school and
were being provided with basic necessities and a stable home. DCFS
advised the juvenile court of its concern about father living in ...