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

July 12, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. J05049)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hull , Acting P. J.

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

S.W., mother, and T.S., father, appeal from orders of the juvenile court terminating their reunification services and placing the minors in long-term foster care. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.21, 395; further undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code.) Father argues the court erred in finding that there was evidence of a substantial risk of detriment in returning the minors to his custody and that reasonable services were provided to him. Mother challenges the adequacy of the notice given pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) and joins father's arguments. Except as to Mother's claim regarding the ICWA notice, we affirm the judgment.


In December 2008, the San Joaquin County Human Services Agency (Agency) filed a petition to detain S.S., age 4 and N.S., age 3, due to mother's drug use and neglect of the minors' care. Father was in Arizona and unable to take the minors at that time. Father told the social worker he had Cherokee and Blackfoot Indian heritage through his parents, although they were not registered with any tribe. Mother indicated on her ICWA-020 form that the minors "may be" eligible for membership in a tribe but did not claim heritage in any particular tribe for herself or the minors, state the source of her belief that the minors may have Indian heritage or state that her claim stemmed from any of her ancestors. The court ordered the minors detained.

The Agency sent notice of the proceedings to the tribes in January 2009. The notice contained no information on the paternal grandparents or great-grandparents. None of the responses from the noticed tribes indicated the minors were eligible for membership.

In May 2009, the court sustained the petition and ordered mother to drug court. Father was present by telephone and submitted on the petition.

The disposition report stated the minors were placed together and had been in one home for the last six months. S.S. was having emotional difficulty after visits and was referred for an assessment for possible therapy. N.S. did not appear to need special services at that time. Father continued to reside in Arizona and wanted to be considered for placement only if mother did not reunify. The social worker made a referral for an interstate placement assessment. In June and July of 2009, the court adopted reunification plans tailored to meet the needs of each parent.

The review report filed in March 2010 stated the minors were moved to a new placement in December 2009, both were in therapy and, while the placement change was a setback for their behavioral issues, both were doing better and visits were going well. Father had moved to California and was looking for housing and work. Although he was referred to a parenting class, he had not begun work on his case plan, relying on mother to reunify. The social worker recommended that father's plan be modified to change the requirement for domestic violence counseling to individual counseling because there was no indication of domestic violence in his criminal history.

In March 2010, the court adopted the Agency's recommendation to continue services for father and amended his case plan by eliminating all counseling requirements. Father's plan was limited to participating in a parenting class, obeying court orders and obtaining and maintaining a suitable residence. The court set a contested review hearing on termination of mother's services.

A supplemental report filed in May 2010 stated the minors were placed with a maternal aunt, had some adjustment problems and remained in therapy. The agency continued to recommend termination of mother's services.

The review report filed in June 2010 stated the minors remained in relative placement, were still having behavioral issues and needed a new therapist. Father's visits were going very well. Father had been unable to find suitable housing or permanent employment and the time limit for his services was up. The social worker believed that, with more time, he might succeed in completing his plan.

An extended contested hearing began in August 2010. Due to continuances and other factors, the hearing concluded with the court's ruling in June 2011. We note that such extended hearings do not serve the objective of prompt resolution of dependency cases in order to provide maximum stability for minors. Whenever possible, hearings should occur day to day until concluded with a minimum of continuances. (See Jeff M. v. Superior Court (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 1238, 1243; see also Renee S. v. Superior Court (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 187.)

In any event, much of the testimony at the review hearing related to mother's mental status ...

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