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In Re J.S., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Jennifer S

June 28, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JD231138)

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Jennifer S. (mother) appeals from the juvenile court's findings and orders placing J.S. (the minor) with J.C. (father), the nonoffending, non-custodial parent, and terminating jurisdiction. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 361.2.)*fn1 Mother contends (1) there was no substantial evidence to justify jurisdiction; (2) there was no substantial evidence that returning the minor to mother's custody would cause detriment; (3) no reasonable efforts were made to prevent the minor's removal from mother's custody; and (4) the court abused its discretion by placing the minor with father because he was only the adjudicated father, not the presumed father. We shall affirm.


The section 300 petition filed by Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) alleged that mother's substance abuse problem endangered the seven-year-old minor. The minor's uncle found mother passed out in her apartment with an empty beer can beside her while the minor played outside unattended. After the uncle tried to rouse mother, she ordered him out. Police later found the minor at a neighbor's apartment. Mother was under the influence of alcohol and prescription medication.

At the initial hearing, the juvenile court found that J.C. was the alleged father. Mother said there was a child support order and a restraining order against him. The court ordered the minor detained and directed the Department to provide reunification services to mother, pending the jurisdiction/disposition hearing.

The jurisdiction/disposition report recommended ordering reunification services for mother and stated that father's whereabouts were unknown.

Mother denied substance abuse, calling the allegation "'ridiculous.'" She was on disability due to work-related injuries. She drank a glass of beer or wine per day to help with chronic pain and had a medical marijuana card.

On the date of the minor's detention, mother claimed she was incoherent due to the dose of prescribed medication she had taken (750 milligrams of methocarbamol), which could have "'knocked out a horse.'"*fn2 She did not remember being on the floor; she might have fallen off the couch while napping. She kicked out the maternal uncle because he was not welcome, and when he did not leave she asked her neighbor to call the police. Mother admitted that the minor was at a neighbor's residence when the police came. Mother did not seem to understand why she was being referred to services.

The minor, who appeared appropriately dressed, clean, and healthy, said she enjoyed mother's visits. She indicated that she knew what happened on the date of her detention, but did not want to talk about it. At first she said she wanted to live with her mother, but then said, "'I'm safer here [at the Children's Receiving Home]. It's nice and I have friends here.'"

The maternal uncle told the police that although mother generally cared well for the minor, the incident leading to the minor's detention was not the only one of its kind. He had found mother in the same state eight to 12 months earlier from a similar combination of alcohol and pain medications; when hospitalized, mother had a high blood-alcohol level. He believed mother habitually combined alcohol and prescription drugs.

On the day of the incident he went over to wish mother a happy birthday. A few days before, she had gone to the hospital due to high blood pressure caused by pain and was prescribed additional pain medication. He thought she did not know she was not supposed to mix the medication with alcohol.

According to the police incident report, the officers knocked on mother's door for several minutes with no response, then contacted the next-door neighbor. The neighbor told the police the minor had knocked on the door and said her mother was passed out on the floor; the neighbor decided to watch the minor to "'keep her from all the drama.'" Mother, who had moved in next door a month earlier, "looks as if she is intoxicated 'just about every day.'"

Mother finally responded to knocks and invited the officers in, moving lethargically and speaking in a thick, slurred manner. She said she had had two beers. The officers found two 24-ounce "beer/energy drinks with 12 [percent] alcohol" in the kitchen sink. She showed the officers a bottle of hydrocodone prescribed five days prior; the prescription was for 20 pills and the bottle contained only one and a half pills. She also had a bottle of methocarbamol, a muscle relaxer, prescribed in a 30-pill bottle five days prior; she had seven pills left. She said she had taken both medications along with the alcohol.

The officers asked mother if she could call her parents to take care of the minor that evening; mother refused. Finding that mother could not care for the minor, the officers placed the minor in protective custody.

In the evening the officers were dispatched to the neighbor's home. They heard mother's apartment door slam and found her staggering down the stairs. ...

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