California Court of Appeals, Third District, El Dorado
In re E.D., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
R.D., Defendant and Appellant. EL DORADO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent, v.
APPEAL from a judgment (order) of the Superior Court of El Dorado County Super. Ct. No. SDP2011-0021 Thomas E. Warriner, Judge.
Caitlin U. Christian, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.
Edward L. Knapp, County Counsel, and Scott C. Starr, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
RAYE, P. J.
R.D. (father) appeals from the juvenile court’s order refusing to return E.D. (minor) to his custody at the 12-month review hearing. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 366.21, subd. (f), 395.) Respondent El Dorado County Department of Human Services (the Department) agrees that the minor should be returned to father. We shall reverse.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The minor, born in the summer of 2003, is the child of father and M.W. (mother). He has three half siblings: R.R., T.W., and M.D. Born in the spring of 2009, M.D. is father’s child with his girlfriend, M.C. (father’s girlfriend). Half siblings R.R. and T.W. have different fathers.
The minor was removed from mother’s custody in 2009 because of her substance abuse problems and placed with father, but in June 2010 mother regained custody in family court after a domestic violence incident between father and father’s girlfriend. Father was given supervised visitation; he attended the majority of his visits, which were “very appropriate.”
In August 2011 the minor, R.R., and T.W. were removed from mother’s custody because of a drug relapse, and the juvenile court assumed jurisdiction over them.
At disposition in October 2011 the juvenile court rejected the Department’s recommendation that the minor be returned to father’s care with a plan of family maintenance services. The court ordered the minors placed in foster care and granted reunification services to father and to T.W.’s father, but not to mother (or to R.R.’s father). The court thereafter ordered the minors placed with the maternal grandmother.
In February 2012 the juvenile court increased father’s visitation to eight hours a week, with no overnight visits pending a home assessment. The assessment, done by an ICPC (Interstate Compact on Placement of Children) worker in Nevada, where father lived, found that his home was appropriate for overnight visits. However, the court declined to order overnight visits until it had received an assessment with father’s girlfriend present in the home, as well as more information from father’s therapist and the minor’s therapist.
The Department’s six-month review report recommended continued placement of the minor with the maternal grandmother and continued services for father. The minor was making progress, though he currently suffered from “emotional meltdowns.” His therapist was working with him on making the transition into father’s care at some point, but time would be needed to do so effectively. The minor wanted to live with father in Reno, but the Department considered a return to father’s custody detrimental to the minor at that time because (1) father had not participated in court-ordered services, (2) Nevada had not formally accepted the ICPC referral, and (3) since father’s girlfriend would probably be included in father’s future living arrangements, it had to be determined whether things had changed significantly between her and father since the 2010 domestic violence incident.
On May 30, 2012, at the six-month review hearing, the juvenile court ordered immediate conjoint therapy with father and the minor, and granted six more months of reunification services to father.
In July 2012, after hearing testimony from the minor’s therapist, the juvenile court granted overnight visits to father. The court also ordered the maternal grandmother (who opposed overnight visits, partly because of the minor’s recent behavioral ...