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In Re N.H. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. K.H. et al

January 7, 2013


(Super. Ct. Nos. JD230666 & JD231230)

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

K.H. and Y. T., parents of minors N.H. and David H. (David) (collectively "minors"), appeal from orders of the juvenile court terminating their parental rights. (Welf. & Inst. Code,*fn1 § 366.26, 395 [].) The parents contend the juvenile court erred under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) in deviating from the ICWA placement preference order without good cause and that insufficient "active efforts" were made to keep the Indian family together. Disagreeing, we shall affirm.


Family History of Dependency Proceedings

N.H. was born in February 2010 and David in January 2011. They have an older half sister and two older brothers, who were ages nine, seven and four years, respectively, at the time of the ruling after the selection and implementation hearing in April 2012. The three older children were detained in July 2009, adjudicated dependents in September 2009 due to domestic violence between mother and father and removed from parental custody when mother was seven weeks pregnant with N.H. They were placed in a Native American foster home certified by Tribal Economic and Social Solutions Agency (TESSA). Mother's case plan included general counseling, parenting and participation in a domestic violence program.

The older children's six-month review report, filed just before N.H.'s birth, noted that mother had not obtained any significant prenatal care and was not participating in services at the Sacramento Native American Health Center (SNAHC). The juvenile court ordered additional services.

N.H.'s Birth and Early Proceedings

The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services (Department) filed a non-detaining petition as to N.H. in May 2010 based on domestic violence. Mother claimed Indian heritage as a registered tribal member of the Navajo Nation. N.H. was detained in June 2010 due to mother's neglect.

The Department filed several reports prior to the contested jurisdiction/disposition hearing. The reports chronicled domestic violence incidents between mother and father from 2006 to the present as well as mother's neglect of N.H. At that time, there were no relatives willing and able to accept placement of the minors.

Mother admitted methamphetamine use in August 2010 and was twice referred for an assessment but did not follow through. She tested positive for methamphetamine on August 30, 2010. Father admitted he and mother used methamphetamine together. The Department recommended denying services to both parents. A third addendum informed the court that mother was not participating in services and had left residential treatment several times. The attached report of the ICWA expert opined there was clear evidence that N.H. "was at great risk for severe 'emotional and/or physical damage,' were she to be returned to the care of either of her parents." The ICWA expert agreed with the Department's recommendations.

The Department filed a second amended petition, adding allegations of the parents' drug use and mother's neglect of N.H. to the allegations of domestic violence. The Navajo tribe intervened, and the court continued the jurisdiction/disposition hearing for an Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) investigation regarding a maternal great-aunt (aunt) in Arizona.

A fourth addendum, filed in January 2011, stated that the tribe was completing the evaluation for placement with the aunt and expected it to be favorable. The Department was concerned because the aunt had 10 citations for alcohol-related offenses in 10 years. The addendum reported mother had entered a drug treatment program, became ill and was hospitalized. A month later she went to an intake appointment at SNAHC intending to enroll in all services but did not. Mother denied using methamphetamine but did not submit to tests, did not attend meetings with the social worker, and denied an ongoing relationship with father. Father was also missing appointments and tested positive for methamphetamine.

David's Birth and Early Proceedings

In January 2011, mother gave birth to David. Both mother and David tested positive for methamphetamine; David was detained. Mother admitted recent methamphetamine use and that she used the drug throughout her pregnancy. The parents were involved in a physical altercation at the hospital following David's birth. ...

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