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In Re Luke H., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Deborah H

September 11, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JD231552)

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

In re Luke H.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Deborah H., the mother of 17-year-old Luke H., appeals from the findings and orders of the Sacramento County Juvenile Court adjudging Luke its dependent, removing him from mother's custody, placing him with non-related extended family member (NREFM) Catherine A., and designating her, rather than mother, as the holder of Luke's educational rights.

On appeal, mother contends the juvenile court's order designating Catherine A. as the holder of Luke's educational rights was an abuse of discretion. We shall affirm the findings and orders.


Originating Circumstances

In April 2011, the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) received a referral from a mandated reporter expressing grave concerns about Luke's mental health related to ongoing abuse and exploitation. The reporter also expressed concern for Luke's adopted siblings who reside in mother's home and suffer from various disabilities. In addition, the reporter expressed concern that mother was unlawfully breeding and keeping a large number of dogs in a room used by a disabled sibling.

An investigating social worker met with Luke at the residence of his girlfriend. Luke reported that mother emotionally abuses him in that she makes him stay home for no known reason, uses sleep deprivation as punishment, yells at him for hours at a time, calls him "gay" or "butt pirate," accuses him of having been "butt buddies" with a deceased mentor, makes fun of his having been conceived by artificial insemination, and jokes about him not knowing his biological father. During arguments, mother sometimes uses against Luke his previous suicide attempt at age 10. When Luke is not listening to mother, she routinely threatens to "5150" him, i.e., commit him involuntarily to a mental health facility.*fn1 Luke reported that, as a result of mother's abuse, he has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other stress-related issues. Luke explained that he did not feel safe with mother and, if forced to return to her, he would kill himself.

The next day, mother arrived at the residence of Luke's girlfriend (the N. family) and demanded that Luke enter her car so she could take him home. Social workers and police officers were present. Mother was advised that Luke did not feel safe with her and would hurt himself if returned to her care. Mother directed the social workers to get Luke into her car or put him in protective custody; they chose the latter and placed Luke at a receiving home.

Two days later, mother agreed to a voluntary placement of Luke with the family of his best friend, the F. family. Luke was released from protective custody.

During a mental health assessment, mother denied the allegations and believed that outside influences on Luke had exacerbated "'normal'" parent-teen conflicts. Specifically, mother believed the Department and the family of Luke's girlfriend had "'undermined'" her parenting authority and had worsened any problems that existed between her and Luke.

A mental health assessment of Luke revealed that he felt significant distress while in mother's care due to chronic negative interactions with her. Mother's style of communicating and interacting is domineering and intrusive. Luke perceived his home situation as intolerable and did not wish to return to mother's care until significant changes were made.

Shortly after the assessment, mother returned Luke to her residence. She agreed to individual counseling for herself and Luke, as well as family counseling.

However, mother would not allow Luke to return to his 10th grade class at a private school. Without seeking mother's approval, which he knew she would not give, Luke had obtained counseling under the auspices of the school. According to Luke, mother may have believed that, by doing so, Luke was undermining the "commandment" that he "honor [his] mother." Luke opined that mother was using his schooling as "leverage" and was threatening to send him to a public school.

In late April 2011, Luke told social workers that mother had placed bells on his bedroom door and allowed him to leave her sight only when using the bathroom. Since returning to her care, he needs to use the bathroom often and has blood in his stool. He believed his only options were suicide, absconding until age 18, or returning to protective custody.

Luke's counselor reported that Luke often feels hopeless and powerless in his home environment and has considered suicide as a means of escape. During his recent removal from mother's residence, his suicidal ideation had ...

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