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In Re Elizabeth C. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. Jesse C

September 25, 2012


(Super. Ct. Nos. DPSQ09-6519, DPSQ09-6541, DPSQ11-6666)

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

In re Elizabeth C.



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Jesse C., father of the minors, appeals from orders terminating his parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395 [further undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code].) Appellant contends the court erred in failing to return the minors to his care at the disposition hearing on the second petition removing the minors from his care (§ 387) and in allowing his counsel to withdraw just prior to the section 366.26 hearing. Appellant further contends his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to ask for a bonding study. We affirm.


In July 2009, the Sutter County Department of Human Services (Department) removed nine-month-old Elizabeth C. from parental care due to ongoing domestic violence in the home and the mother's mental health problems. In August 2009, the mother was in jail for child cruelty and spousal abuse and was pregnant with a second child. By October 2009, the minor had been placed with the paternal grandmother. The court ordered reunification services.

Shortly thereafter, Isabelle C. was born and immediately detained. Both parents were participating in services but each needed further services.

In April 2010, the Department recommended returning the minors to the parents with family maintenance services. The mother was pregnant with a third child. The court found the parents had made excellent progress and returned the minors home under a family maintenance plan. A review after two months indicated the family was making progress and the court continued the family maintenance.

By October 2010, the reunited family was under stress. Appellant was becoming increasingly frustrated and angry. After meetings and discussions of the parents' needs and appropriate services, the parties agreed to a safety plan for the family and renewed services. The parents did not respond to their intervention counsel's telephone calls and did not engage in the new service plan. Nonetheless, the court ordered an additional six months of family maintenance services.

In January 2011, the Department filed a section 387 supplemental petition to remove Elizabeth and Isabelle and a section 300 petition to remove the new baby, Tabitha C. The petitions alleged the mother was arrested in December 2010 for domestic violence and mother later reported that, during this time, appellant hit the mother hard enough to cause her injury. Appellant had a restraining order against the mother, but invited her to his home and encouraged ongoing violations of the order. In January 2010 appellant called the mother to come and get the baby, which she did. The mother witnessed appellant physically and emotionally abuse Elizabeth and Isabelle. The court ordered the minors detained.

The jurisdiction report for the petitions recounted the ongoing violence between appellant and the mother and the parents' failure to comply with the safety plan by continuing to have contact with each other. The minors were placed with the paternal grandmother in February 2011. The report stated that 19 months of services had not been effective in modifying the parents' behavior to protect the minors from neglect and abuse and that the parents were now ignoring court orders and safety plans designed to assist them. The court sustained the petitions.

The disposition report filed in May 2011 recommended termination of services. The report reviewed the ongoing contact and violence between appellant and the mother from the time the first petition was filed. Violent interactions continued despite the parents' participation in services, which included various marriage therapy interventions and parenting instruction. The report stated that the parents had not benefitted from services, appearing to have engaged in services until the minors were returned and participating only minimally thereafter. At visits with the parents following removal, the minors seemed to be confused as to who they were visiting but greeted the paternal grandmother with smiles when she came to pick them up. The Department's assessment was that the parents were unwilling or unable to address their problems and place the welfare of the minors above their own troubled relationship. A February 2011 progress report for the preceding six months from appellant's therapist stated that appellant appeared to be "marginally motivated" for treatment and ...

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