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In Re C.A., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. R.B

May 2, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JD226951)

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

In re C.A.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

R.B. (mother) appeals after the juvenile court ordered adoption as the permanent plan for four-year-old C.A. (the child) and terminated mother's parental rights.*fn1

Mother contends (1) the juvenile court did not comply with certain statutory requirements for tribal customary adoption; (2) the juvenile court should not have terminated parental rights because the Choctaw tribe identified guardianship as the child's permanent plan; and (3) the selection of adoption as the permanent plan is not supported by substantial evidence.

We conclude (1) mother forfeited her contentions regarding tribal customary adoption requirements because she did not assert them in the juvenile court, and, in any event, any error was harmless; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in terminating parental rights; and (3) substantial evidence supports the selection of adoption as the permanent plan.

We will affirm the juvenile court order.


After receiving a referral, the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (Department) made an unannounced visit to mother's home on January 14, 2008. The child and the maternal grandmother were present. The home was "filthy" with food-caked dishes and piles of broken furniture, and it was strewn with empty plastic bottles and clothes. The only exit was partially obstructed.

Mother declined family maintenance services but agreed to have the child stay with the maternal great-grandmother while the house was cleaned. Mother previously received services from Birth and Beyond, which in December 2007 described mother's home as "borderline unsafe." Birth and Beyond closed mother's case because she was uncooperative and failed to keep appointments.

When the Department returned to mother's house on January 18, 2008, the child was present despite the Department's instructions to the contrary. Although some cleaning had occurred, the home was still cluttered and smelled of urine. Mother was offered, but declined, family maintenance and informal supervision services.

The Department removed the child from mother's care and filed a petition alleging that mother failed to provide adequate care and shelter thus placing the child at substantial risk. (Welf. & Inst. Code,*fn2 § 300, subd. (b).) The juvenile court ordered the child detained with his paternal grandparents. Mother notified the juvenile court that she may have Choctaw Indian heritage. It was later determined that mother is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The father indicated he is unaware of any Indian heritage.

The Department's March 2008 report for the jurisdiction/disposition hearing noted that mother, then aged 18, was previously diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder. More recently, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. An April 1, 2008 addendum report indicated that mother moved to a new residence. No safety concerns were noted. A second addendum report noted that mother's psychiatrist indicated she was diagnosed with major depression single episode and post traumatic stress disorder.

Because mother appeared to be engaged in counseling and a medication regimen, and because no further risk to the child was apparent, the Department requested dismissal of the petition. The juvenile court granted the request. Mother agreed to an informal supervision plan that required her to, among other things, (1) maintain a clean, healthy and safe residence separate from maternal grandmother (who also had a history with the Department), (2) never leave the child unsupervised, (3) complete counseling and parenting classes, and (4) keep psychiatric medication appointments.

Approximately six months after the first petition was dismissed, the Department filed a non-detaining petition alleging that mother failed to engage in informal services, stopped attending counseling, refused to drug test, had minimal boundaries and allowed inappropriate guests in her home. Mother allowed a male friend to stay with her for a couple of months, and in July 2008 the friend brought to the apartment another male friend that mother did not know. The next morning, mother woke to the unknown man sexually assaulting her. Mother's landlord reported that a number of men entered and left mother's apartment and that mother was observed walking around the apartment complex with the child in the middle of the night.

Mother said she was utilizing her services and remained willing to participate. She explained she was not refusing to drug test, but that following the sexual assault she had anxiety attacks when she attempted to provide urine samples while someone was watching her.

The juvenile court sustained a first amended petition under section 300, subdivision (b), adjudged the child a dependent, placed him in mother's care, ordered family maintenance services for mother and struck the drug testing component from mother's case plan.

Throughout the review period, mother's home was observed to be cluttered but free of safety concerns, except for the many plastic bags that were accessible to the child. Mother was obtaining counseling through the victim witness program and was using psychotropic medications. The child appeared to be doing well and had a strong bond with mother.

The juvenile court continued the in-home-placement review hearing to obtain mother's counseling reports. Meanwhile, the Department received a referral alleging the child's diapers were not being changed and he was spending most of his time with the maternal grandmother. At an unannounced home visit on June 29, 2009, mother was observed retrieving the child from the maternal grandmother's apartment and returning to her own apartment. Mother knew the maternal grandmother's history of drug use and mental health issues. The child was at the grandmother's house because the great-grandmother's house was unsafe following a drive-by shooting.

During the home visit, the child fell while trying to ride a tricycle. When mother tried to "re-direct" him, the teenage maternal aunt took the child outside to ride the tricycle even though mother instructed otherwise. The social worker opined that mother did not "follow through" to ensure the aunt followed her wishes.

The review hearing was conducted on September 1, 2009. Mother's case plan was modified to require "4 random blood tests as arranged and directed by the Department."

The Department made another unannounced visit to mother's home in October 2009. Mother and the child were not present but there was evidence that maternal grandmother had been assaulted by an acquaintance of a friend. The next day the Department filed a supplemental petition alleging that mother had failed to benefit from services and was not compliant with drug testing and counseling. On November 10, ...

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