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In Re J.N., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. L.P. et al

November 26, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JD231319)

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

L.P. (mother) and Jerry N. (father) appeal from orders of the juvenile court terminating their parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.26, 395.)*fn1 Mother contends the court erred in denying her petition for modification and that there was not substantial evidence the minor was likely to be adopted in a reasonable time. Father joins these arguments and contends that if the orders are reversed as to mother, they should also be reversed as to him. We affirm.


Mother has a 22-year history of methamphetamine abuse and a criminal history dating back to 1993, including 17 drug-related convictions and prior court-ordered substance abuse treatment. She has been diagnosed as co-occurring -- substance abuse and anxiety disorder.

Father has cognitive delays and a history of substance abuse. He was found incompetent to stand trial in a criminal case in 2009. He receives services through Alta Regional Center, and his case worker reported that he is incapable of caring for a child.

Both parents have a child welfare history. Mother's parental rights to an older child were terminated as a result of her addiction. That child was adopted by the maternal grandmother. Of father's six other children, parental rights to four had been terminated, a permanent plan of guardianship had been ordered for another, and the last had been adjudicated a section 602 ward of the juvenile court.

The minor in this case was born when mother was in state prison. After birth, the minor was voluntarily placed with S.G., a family friend, due to father's inability to care for the minor. After mother was released, the minor was transitioned back to mother's care in late January 2011 and remained there until mother was returned to custody in early February 2011 following a positive drug test.

In February 2011, the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (Department) filed a petition to remove the then seven-month-old minor from parental custody due to parental substance abuse and neglect. At the initial hearing, the court ordered the minor detained and placed with S.G.'s mother. Father was unable to care for the minor due to his developmental delays. According to both the maternal grandmother and S.G., the minor had seizures as a baby.

The jurisdiction/disposition report recommended bypassing services for both parents due to their lengthy histories of substance abuse and resistance to court-ordered treatment. The report stated that the minor was doing well in placement and growing. The minor was assessed by the Easter Seals Society to determine if a neurological evaluation was necessary. S.G. was completing paperwork to permit the court to place the minor in her home.

An addendum report in June 2011 stated that mother had completed her Proposition 36 substance abuse treatment program and was reported to be active in the program with a positive attitude. She was testing negative. Nevertheless, the social worker continued to recommend bypass of services, observing that 90 days of sobriety with a 22- to 25-year history of substance abuse was "a mere drop in the bucket" of what the parents would need to remain sober and parent the minor. The report further stated that the minor was being monitored by the Easter Seals Society for possible developmental issues.

A letter to the court from S.G. in August 2011 reiterated that the minor had ongoing medical issues, including seizures, which required frequent doctor's visits and consultations with specialists.

A second addendum report in September 2011 discussed visitation issues, including mother's attempts to manipulate the visit supervisor and her failure to follow directions. Mother appeared to be more concerned about her rights than about the minor.

The juvenile court heard testimony over several days and, on October 6, 2011 sustained the petition, found that the bypass provisions of section 361.5, subdivision (b)(13) applied and set a section 366.26 hearing. In its ruling, the court acknowledged that both parents had done well in treatment following mother's release from jail at the end of February 2011. The court noted that mother had begun to understand that substance abuse did have a negative effect on raising a child. However, the parents had not established that they had the capacity to parent a young child with medical issues. Further, mother did not understand the potential obstacles to her rehabilitation from substance abuse and had no plan on how to deal with the potential for relapse. And she did not acknowledge father's inability to raise the minor. The minor was placed with S.G.

In December 2011, mother filed a petition for modification of the disposition order, seeking return of the minor or an order for reunification services. She alleged, as changed circumstances, her continued participation in substance abuse treatment and counseling and her ongoing sobriety. Mother further alleged that the proposed modification was in the minor's best interests because she wanted to stay sober and be a safe parent to the minor. Additionally, mother alleged that, having overcome her long drug history, she would be able to provide a supportive home and be a good example to the minor, she had a support structure, the minor recognized her and enjoyed being with her, and she should have a chance to parent her child.

Several supporting reports and letters from service providers were attached to the modification petition, including a letter from the director of Strategies for Change (SFC), the drug treatment program where mother had voluntarily enrolled after completing the Proposition 36 treatment program. The SFC director said that mother was chosen to speak at the SFC annual meeting because "she best exemplified commitment to recovery, rehabilitation, and redemption."

The January 30, 2012 assessment report for the section 366.26 hearing stated that visits were now two times a month and were supervised by S.G. The visits went well. S.G. had no criminal history or child abuse referrals and was referred for an adoption home study. The minor had a medical examination and was found to be in good health. And the minor was also meeting normal developmental milestones. The report stated the minor was generally adoptable because of her age and lack of health or development issues.

At the combined contested section 388 and section 366.26 hearing in February 2012, mother testified and called several witnesses in support of the petition for modification.

Mother's therapist for short-term counseling on coping skills testified that mother began the counseling sessions in September 2011 and completed them at the end of December 2011. The therapist stated mother was active in therapy sessions, developed positive coping skills, and internalized the concepts presented. She took responsibility for her behavior in a way the therapist rarely saw in clients. Mother had remorse for the distress she had caused her family, especially her mother and her older daughter, who had been adopted by her mother.

Mother's sponsor, a recovering alcoholic, testified she met mother in jail in 2005 and mother contacted her after being released from state prison. The sponsor said mother was now a different person, no longer selfish and self-centered, and was on the right track to recovery. However, according to the sponsor, while mother had a "really strong ...

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