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In re Aaron S.

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

February 25, 2015

In re AARON S., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. SANTA CLARA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
AARON S., Defendant and Appellant.

Santa Clara County Super. Ct. No. JD20626

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COUNSEL

Linda K. Harvie, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Orry P. Korb, County Counsel, Julie Fulmer McKellar and Teri L. Robinson. Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

GROVER, J.

Aaron S. was adjudged a dependent minor when he was 16 years old and became a nonminor dependent when he turned 18. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 11400, subd. (v).)[1] The juvenile court terminated dependency jurisdiction shortly before Aaron turned 19, finding that by not enrolling in school or having a job, Aaron failed to participate in his Transitional Independent Living Case Plan. (§§ 391, subd. (c)(1)(B), 11403, subd. (b).) Aaron appeals the order terminating dependency jurisdiction, claiming the juvenile court erred in finding that he was not participating in his Transitional Independent Living Case Plan and that the order must be reversed because the Santa Clara

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County Department of Family and Children’s Services (Department) did not provide him a 90-day transition plan. (§ 391, subds. (c)(1)(B), (e)(2)(J).) For the reasons stated here, we will affirm.

I. JUVENILE COURT PROCEEDINGS

Aaron was born in 1994. In 2011 the Department took Aaron into protective custody and filed a petition under section 300, subdivisions (b) (failure to protect) and (g) (no provision for support), alleging that Aaron’s mother had abandoned him and his father was incarcerated. The next month, Aaron was declared a dependent minor and placed in a foster home. Parents received reunification services for one year but those services were terminated at the 12-month review hearing due to parents’ failure to meaningfully participate. The juvenile court ordered that Aaron receive permanent placement services with a plan of an independent living arrangement and also wraparound “intensive home-based family services” arranged by the Department.

When his parents’ reunification services were terminated in May 2012, Aaron was living in a group home and enrolled in an Independent Living Program through the Department. As part of that program Aaron completed a transitional independent living plan and agreement listing goals to transition to independent living, including graduating from high school, obtaining a driver’s license, and getting a job. Though his social worker described Aaron as likeable and charming, she indicated that he had poor impulse control and disregarded rules and consequences. Aaron was diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder as well as anxiety disorder and was prescribed medicine that helped improve his impulse control. Aaron admitted using marijuana almost daily.

The social worker prepared a status review report for the six-month review hearing of Aaron’s independent living arrangement in November 2012. (§ 366.3, subd. (d).) Aaron reported feeling abandoned by his parents and the social worker opined that Aaron was deeply impacted by his lack of close relationships with any family members or other strong role models. Aaron was attending wraparound family specialist services to discuss his needs, concerns, and goals but the service provider threatened to drop him from the program due to lack of participation. He also attended individual therapy sessions between November 2011 and June 2012 but chose to stop attending them. Aaron was discharged from a transitional housing placement for using marijuana and violating other house rules. He was placed in a group home but the new placement was also precarious because he repeatedly left without permission and continued to use marijuana.

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Because Aaron’s 18th birthday was approaching, the social worker discussed the benefits and obligations of extended foster care as a nonminor dependent with him. Aaron expressed interest in participating in the program. He told the social worker he wanted to use the system in every way possible, which the social worker interpreted as meaning that he would do “as little as possible and hav[e] ‘the system’ do as much as possible.” At the November 2012 six-month review hearing the court continued dependency jurisdiction and set a hearing for January 2013 regarding Aaron’s transition to nonminor dependent status.

Aaron turned 18 in December 2012 and had his first hearing as a nonminor dependent the next month. The Department’s report for that hearing noted that Aaron had to be placed in another group home after being discharged from the previous home for curfew violations, drug use, and refusing to attend scheduled appointments. Beginning in November 2012 Aaron attended family specialist appointments more consistently in response to the service provider’s threat to discharge him from the program if he continued to miss appointments. Aaron told the social worker he wanted to get a medical marijuana card, which concerned her because he admitted that he sold marijuana and she believed he was self-medicating with marijuana. He attended a continuation high school in Santa Clara and was on track to graduate in 2013 despite a December 2012 disciplinary furlough for truancy and not completing assignments. Aaron said he wanted to get a job but had not turned in applications or accepted support from by the Department. Finally, his involvement with Independent Living Program services had increased and he was able to cook his own meals, do his own laundry, and use public transportation. The court continued dependency jurisdiction.

After uneventful status review hearings in March and April 2013, the juvenile court held a hearing in May 2013 where the social worker reported that Aaron’s school attendance was slipping. Aaron acknowledged that he was not living up to expectations of the nonminor dependent program and stated that he always gets “caught up in friends.” His social worker reported that Aaron was not engaging with his Independent Living Program services. The court encouraged Aaron to increase his efforts to comply with his obligations but told the Department to seriously consider whether to recommend terminating dependency at the next review hearing if Aaron’s efforts did not improve.

Aaron successfully graduated high school in May 2013 and the court decided not to terminate services at its July 2013 hearing. The court once again reminded Aaron to keep engaging in services. The Department’s review report for a September 2013 hearing listed several concerns about ...


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