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In Re Joseph H. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. Deanna H. et al

February 26, 2013


(Super. Ct. Nos. JD232103, JD232104, JD232105, JD232106)

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

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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Deanna H., the mother of 18-year-old M.C., 13-year-old S.H., 11-year-old Anthony H. and eight-year-old Joseph H., appeals from an order of the Sacramento County Juvenile Court adjudging the children dependents of the court and removing them from parental custody. Ronald H., the presumed father of S.H., Anthony and Joseph, appeals from the same order.

On appeal, the parents contend the evidence is not sufficient to support the jurisdictional finding or the removal order. We shall affirm.


The family has resided in Sacramento County since early 2011. They have prior Child Protective Services (CPS) history in Shasta County dating back to 2000, involving physical abuse and general neglect.

Both parents have a criminal history. Mother has a 1998 conviction of welfare fraud. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 10980, subd. (c)(2).)*fn1 Father has numerous convictions including willful cruelty to a child (Pen. Code, § 273a, subd. (b)) in 1999 and corporal injury of a spouse or cohabitant (Pen. Code, § 273.5, subd. (a)) in 1999, 2000, and 2003.

Originating Circumstances

On November 8, 2011, Sacramento County CPS received a referral stating mother had become furious with then-16-year-old M.C. for using too much bread to make sandwiches. According to the confidential mandated reporter, mother used a closed fist to hit M.C. on her arms, face, and head. When M.C.'s boyfriend and S.H. tried to intervene, mother pushed the boyfriend; threw a cellular telephone at S.H.; slapped S.H.; and pulled S.H.'s hair while screaming in her face. Father was present but took no action to protect the children; instead, he told M.C. to " 'shut up.' "

Later that day, a social worker interviewed M.C. at her high school. She said mother had yelled at her for using too much bread and explained that mother blames her for the family's financial problems. Mother tried to punch M.C. in the face but the blow landed on her right arm. When M.C.'s boyfriend tried to intervene, mother pushed him and stated she would have hurt him, too, if he had been age 18.

M.C. told the social worker her arm was sore and caused her pain when she moved it. M.C. explained physical abuse was common in her home; mother had battered her many times, leaving marks and bruises; and mother hit and slapped S.H., pulled S.H.'s hair, and threw her cell phone at S.H.'s head although the phone hit her in the stomach. M.C. and S.H. cried all night, planned to run away, and were afraid to return home.

M.C. reported CPS had interviewed her and her siblings on many occasions, but no disclosures had been made because mother had coached the children about what to say. M.C. and S.H. felt they "must speak up or else it will never stop and/or get worse." M.C. was especially fearful of returning home now that she had talked to the social worker.

M.C. reported mother abused Anthony and Joseph. The abuse was most severe when father was not home; when he was present, he would intervene on the boys' behalf.

In the past, mother had choked Anthony by holding him by the throat up against the wall and the stairs. Mother similarly had choked M.C. to the point where she could not breathe.

M.C. reported there had been domestic violence between mother and father "for years." Father had gone to prison because of the violence, but mother always allowed him back in the house. Following his release from prison, father most often was the victim of the couple's domestic violence. The previous weekend, mother had pushed father into a closet and had thrown a heavy candle at his knee. Afterwards, father complained of pain and accused mother of breaking his leg.

M.C. acknowledged she has been impacted by having witnessed domestic violence. Mother's verbal abuse was "even more damaging" than the physical violence. Mother constantly yelled at the children, the girls more so than the boys because father defended his own children. Mother told M.C. she was "disgusting and [was] the reason for all of the family hardships."

M.C. told the social worker "mother lies and it is hard to know what to believe." For example, mother told everyone "she is dying and does not have long to live," because "she has Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and cancer." However, "no one has seen proof of these ailments." The social worker was unable to verify mother's claim that she had "shot and injured a woman who was flirting with her boyfriend and spent several years in prison for the crime." A background check showed mother's claims regarding her past employment and professional credentials were falsified or exaggerated.

M.C. explained mother would punish her by withholding necessary items such as toilet paper and a bed of her own. The refusals of toilet paper would result in towels and clothing being soiled, which, in turn, would lead to further discipline.

The social worker interviewed S.H. at her middle school. She provided essentially the same information M.C. had related. S.H. further reported father, who is not her biological father, mistreats her; mother hits her a lot, too. S.H. confirmed mother abuses the boys. S.H. once saw mother choke Joseph up against a wall; when she did so, all the children cried.

S.H. confirmed domestic violence has been ongoing between the parents for years. Although mother makes father leave the home, she allows him to return. S.H. confirmed there is not enough toilet paper for the children to use.

S.H. said she did not want to return home and explained she was scared mother would hurt her because she had spoken with the social worker.

The mandated reporter explained M.C. had allowed him to listen to messages mother had left on M.C.'s cell phone. Each message involved mother yelling, cursing, and threatening M.C. In one message, mother threatened to take M.C. and S.H. to juvenile hall because she was " 'done with them.' "

The social worker went to the parents' residence and tried to interview each parent separately. Mother insisted they be interviewed together. During the interview father seldom spoke and, when he did, mother usually corrected him or spoke over him. Mother denied "ever putting 'hands on' the children, but then stated that she 'may have grabbed [M.C.'s] arm and smacked [S.H.] on her bootie.' "

The social worker interviewed Joseph, the youngest child, in the home. Although she requested privacy, father repeatedly went in and out of the room during the interview, overhearing the social worker's conversation with Joseph. The social worker reported: "Joseph was obviously reluctant to speak . . . and refused to answer most questions, even the questions that were generated around rapport building and not eliciting information." Joseph initially denied having been subjected to corporal punishment but later admitted he had been spanked with a belt.

During the social worker's interview with Anthony, father again repeatedly went in and out of the room, disrupting the interview. Anthony was "cautious" and made inconsistent statements; for example, he first claimed he had observed the originating incident but then claimed he was in his room where he did not see anything. Anthony acknowledged mother had hit M.C. on the arm. He denied that he and Joseph had been subjected to corporal punishment but declined to state whether the same was true for his sisters.

Anthony told the social worker he "does not like all of the constant yelling, crying and screaming." Anthony said, " 'once in a blue moon' his parents will get into a physical altercation;" father "will usually leave, but come back the following day." Anthony said he "didn't always feel safe at home" but would not say why he felt that way.

On November 9, 2011, the social worker put the girls in a voluntary placement with non-relative extended family members (NREFM's).

On November 21, 2011, mother contacted the social worker to report M.C. had forced S.H. to make allegations that mother ...

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