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In Re J. H. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. L. A

April 4, 2012

IN RE J. H. ET AL., PERSONS COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. SACRAMENTO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
L. A., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. Nos. JD229180, JD229181)

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

In re J.H. CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Mother (L. A.) appeals from the juvenile court's orders terminating her parental rights and ordering a permanent plan of adoption for minors K. H. and J. H. (Welf. & Inst. Code,*fn1 § 366.26.) Mother contends: (1) the termination of parental rights violated due process because the court never found she was an unfit parent; and (2) the court erred by finding the sibling relationship exception to adoption inapplicable. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This is the second appeal in this proceeding. In the first appeal, we upheld the juvenile court's finding that mother had received reasonable services at the 12-month review stage. We also took judicial notice that after the briefing in that appeal was filed, the court terminated mother's parental rights; however, since mother's briefing did not attack that order, we did not address it. (In re J.H. et al. (Feb. 14, 2012, C065793) [nonpub. opn.].)*fn2 We generally take the facts from our previous opinion up to the time of the finding from which mother appealed in case No. C065793.

This proceeding began in February 2009, when Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (the department) filed section 300 petitions as to K. H., a 13-year-old girl, and J. H., an 11-year-old boy, alleging that father (P. H.) had been arrested for sexually assaulting K. H.*fn3 (In re J.H. et al., supra, at p. 2.)

According to the jurisdiction/disposition report, the parents were divorced. Mother and her second husband, B. A. (the stepfather), had two children. (In re J.H. et al., supra, at p. 2.) When the minors were detained, mother was hospitalized and comatose due to alcohol-related liver failure. (Id. at pp. 2-3.) The minors were temporarily placed in the home of the paternal grandparents and wanted to stay there. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) They did not want to live with mother again because they did not feel safe in her home due to her alcoholism and their alleged mistreatment by her and the stepfather. (Id. at p. 4.)

The department recommended removing the minors from both parents' custody, stating that mother's substance abuse problem put the minors at risk.

At the jurisdiction/disposition hearing, where mother submitted on the department's report, the juvenile court ordered out-of-home placement for the minors and offered reunification services to mother, while ordering her to abstain from alcohol and controlled substances and to participate in alcohol and drug treatment and dependency drug court. The court found by clear and convincing evidence that placement with mother would be detrimental to the minors' safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being.

The juvenile court extended mother's reunification services at the six-month review stage and ordered conjoint counseling for mother and the minors. (In re J.H. et al., supra, p. 6.) The court found by a preponderance of the evidence that return of the minors to mother's custody would create a substantial risk of detriment to their safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being.

At the 12-month review stage, the juvenile court again extended mother's reunification services, including conjoint counseling. (In re J.H. et al., supra, at pp. 11-12.) However, the court noted that the paternal grandparents, with whom the minors had lived for a substantial time (In re J.H. et al., supra, pp. 6-7), wanted to adopt them, and the minors wanted to be adopted by the paternal grandparents (id. at p. 13).

At the contested 18-month review hearing, the juvenile court terminated mother's reunification services and set the matter for a section 366.26 hearing. The court found that the return of the minors to mother's custody would create a substantial risk of detriment to their safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being. The court explained its finding as follows:

"[I]t boils down to whether there's a substantial risk of detriment to the emotional well-being of the children if I return them to their mother's home today. And it should be noted that although we use the term return[,] this is a place whether neither child has lived for many years, nor had they lived there for months at all . . . before the dependency case even opened. Even before they completely stopped going to their mother's house the testimony shows they were spending significantly less time with their mother than the father and of course the paternal grandparents. By mother's own testimony[,] for at least three years before the dependency case she was ill on and off, not feeling well, at times hospitalized due to pregnancy and then liver issues and not very interactive at all during the time that she was with her children. And that time dwindled as time went on and now there is no relationship between the mother and the children other than biological. . . . Any relationship appears to be negative[,] at least from the kids' perspective. . . .

"The evidence has shown . . . by at least a preponderance that these children suffer greatly and substantially on an emotional level when contemplating even visiting their mother, let alone going to live with her and the stepfather full time. Fears, fits, outbursts of anger, vomiting and even seizures requiring hospital and emergency room visits are documented. . . .

"The two children are clearly bonded to each other and to their paternal grandparents, but they are clearly not bonded with their mother. They see her as a stranger and invader in their stable lives with their paternal grandparents. Whether or not it [fits] the clinical definition of abusive, they don't like ...


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