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In the Matter of K.R., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. the Superior Court of Los Angeles County

April 25, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF K.R., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, PETITIONER,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, RESPONDENT; A.C. AND V.R., REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST.



(Super. Ct. No. CK93144) ORIGINAL PROCEEDING. Petition for Extraordinary Writ. Mark A. Borenstein, Juvenile Court Judge.

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Petition granted.

INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Department of Family and Children's Services (DCFS) seeks a writ of mandate to set aside respondent juvenile court's order dismissing a petition under Welfare and Institutions Code*fn1 section 300, subdivisions (a), (b) and (j) as to 10-year-old female K.R., despite the respondent's finding that real party in interest, her father V.R., sexually abused her elder half sister, N.C., for five years, including at the same age that K.R. is now. Because we hold that the trial court erred in dismissing the petition, we grant the petition for writ of mandate.

BACKGROUND

In 2012, DCFS received a referral alleging past sexual abuse of N.C. by father. N.C. reported that father had sexually abused her by inappropriate touching when she was about seven or eight years old until she was about 12 years old--which was about five or six years prior to the filing of the petition. Father would tell N.C., "Don't tell your mom. It's our little secret." N.C.'s mother started dating father when N.C. was four or five years old, and father moved in with them. In 2002, when N.C. was about seven or eight years old, K.R. was born to mother and father. It was around that time, father's sexual molestation of N.C. began.

The abuse occurred at night while mother was at work and N.C. was alone with father. N.C.'s bed was in the living room, and father would sit next to her on the bed watching television and put his hand inside her pants, touching her vagina. Father repeatedly orally copulated N.C. When these events occurred, K.R. was on the premises, as was a babysitter. On one occasion, K.R. may have seen the abuse taking place.

When N.C. was about 12 years old, she told her mother about the sexual molestation. According to N.C., mother tried to expel father from the house, but father threatened to take K.R. away. Mother did put locks on doors to stop the abuse. N.C. has now expressed concern that father would sexually abuse K.R., a physically maturing child; N.C. noted that father would "shower or bathe" K.R., which N.C. considers "weird."

DCFS filed a section 300 petition on behalf of N.C. and K.R., asserting counts under section 300, subdivisions (b), (d) and (j), and setting forth the allegations of father's sexual abuse of N.C. The juvenile court found a prima facie case and ordered the children removed from father and released to mother. The juvenile court ordered monitored visits and telephone calls for father with K.R., but no contact between father and N.C.

After initial denials, mother admitted that N.C. disclosed the sexual abuse to her when N.C. was 13 years old. Mother said she put locks on the doors, took father's keys to the rooms away, and was more vigilant about not leaving the children alone with father if the babysitter was not there. Mother also said she remained with father after N.C.'s disclosure because of economic reasons, as father paid half the rent and other costs.

DCFS recommended that father attend parenting and sexual abuse treatment classes, and that mother attend parenting and sexual abuse awareness classes for nonoffending parents. In a last-minute report for the March 12, 2013, hearing, DCFS reported that father enrolled in a 52-week program for sex offenders in Fresno, California, in which city he worked. Mother was in a sexual abuse awareness group through the family preservation program.

Because N.C. had turned 18 in 2013, DCFS recommended she be dismissed from the section 300 petition. DCFS further recommended that the court take jurisdiction over K.R., and monitor father's progress and the risk to K.R. as father began the program for sexual abuse perpetrators. DCFS continued helping mother with services for K.R. and with funds for the family's housing.

At the adjudication hearing, N.C. testified about the father's sexual abuse of her. Father denied the sexual abuse. K.R. testified that father never inappropriately touched her and that she liked father. Mother testified that her relationship with father began about 14 years ago and ended about March 2012 because father had harmed N.C. She testified she was informed about the abuse years earlier and had put "locks ...


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