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

March 22, 2012


(Super. Ct. Nos. JD227267, JD227268)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Butz ,j.

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Christine S., mother of the minors, appeals from orders of the juvenile court terminating her parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395.)*fn1 Mother contends both the beneficial parental relationship and sibling exceptions applied and termination of her parental rights was detrimental to the minors. We shall affirm.


In 2008, the two minors--A.S., then two months old, and T.S., then one year old--were removed from mother due to severe physical injury inflicted on A.S. After 18 months of services, the minors were returned to mother and the dependency was terminated in January 2010.

In May 2010, A.S., now two years old, was hospitalized with severe trauma inflicted by the maternal grandmother, who admitted causing the earlier injury. As a result of her injuries, A.S. needed intensive rehabilitation therapy, physical and occupational therapy, nursing and neuropsychology. The minors were detained.*fn2 The Cherokee Nation intervened, having been notified of the proceedings pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) The juvenile court sustained the petitions, as amended, in October 2010. After a contested hearing, the court denied services to mother and the fathers of A.S. and T.S. and set a section 366.26 hearing for each of them.

The report filed in July 2011 for the section 366.26 hearing stated both minors were now healthy. A.S. was developmentally on track and T.S. was receiving speech therapy to deal with impaired language skills, which were a symptom of her autism. There were no behavioral concerns for either child and T.S.'s educational needs were being supported by an aide. All three siblings were living in the same home. A.S. had a positive bond to her sisters while T.S. did not. The current care provider was willing to adopt the minors, but deferred to relatives who were also willing to do so. A maternal aunt in Oregon, who developed a relationship with A.S. during her first hospitalization in 2008, wanted to provide a home for both A.S. and J.S. The maternal great-aunt in Arizona, who had a background as a school psychologist and who could meet the needs of an autistic child, wanted to adopt T.S. The report stated that the tribe supported the relative placements and the placements would be in the minors' best interests. The report concluded the minors were generally adoptable and, while T.S. would be separated from her half siblings, she would be placed with a relative who could meet her special needs. The report recognized that A.S. had a bond with her older sister but it would not be detrimental to separate the minors. The report said A.S. viewed mother as a friendly visitor and that T.S.'s autism impaired her ability to show a bond to anyone, including mother. The tribe and the Indian expert concurred with the proposed placements and the social worker's recommendations.

At the hearing, the family service worker who supervised visits testified that the minors visited mother weekly and were happy to see her. The minors were physically affectionate with mother, called her "mom" and did not want to leave when visits ended. The worker clarified that, more often than not, A.S. and T.S. showed distress when the visits ended but the distress resolved when mother gave them treats.

Mother testified that she felt the minors were bonded to her and it would be detrimental to them to sever the parental ties. She said that she brought treats for the end of the visit to distract the minors and keep them from being upset. Mother further testified that A.S. and T.S. were very close and A.S. was "kind of a big sister" to T.S. and protective of her even though T.S. did not pay much attention to her.

The social worker testified that information in the report about visits and the sibling bond was based on accounts from the current caretaker who had participated in visits. The social worker stated it would not be detrimental to separate T.S. from her half siblings as she did not show concern if they were not present; however A.S. would have to be gradually transitioned to a new home because she was bonded to T.S.

The parties argued the applicability of the parental relationship and sibling exceptions to adoption. The court agreed that the minors knew mother and visits were pleasant. Further, it was evident that there was a relationship between A.S. and T.S. and it would be difficult for A.S. if the two were separated. The court found the minors generally adoptable and that they would be adopted by relatives. The court also found that neither the evidence of benefit to the minors from continued contact with mother nor the evidence of a sibling ...

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