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In re M.W.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division

July 6, 2015

In re M.W. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
K.G., Defendant and Appellant.

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. DK02852 Daniel Z. Zeidler, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Cristina Gabrielidis, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Mark J. Saladino, County Counsel, Dawyn R. Harrison, Assistant County Counsel, Jeanette Cauble, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

COLLINS, J.

K.G. (mother) challenges the juvenile court’s jurisdictional and dispositional order regarding her two children, M.W. (born in 2006) and Lamar W., Jr. (L.W.) (born in 2007). Although mother concedes jurisdiction was proper due to her substance abuse, she contends that findings made in connection with a subsequent petition were insufficient to establish jurisdiction and should be reversed. Specifically, she argues (1) her failure to obtain a protective order following a 2007 domestic violence incident with the father did not expose the children to a current risk of harm and (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish that she knew or should have known of Lamar W. Sr.’s (father’s) criminal history and sex offender status and placed the children at risk of harm by allowing him access to them. We agree with both contentions and modify the order to strike the allegations based on mother’s failure to protect the children from father (counts b-2, b-3, and d-2). The order is affirmed in all other respects.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

On December 24, 2013, mother consumed either “a 4-pack of wine” or “six medium bottles of Brandy” and ingested “a lot” of pain pills and

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psychotropic medication before getting into her car with M.W. and L.W. Mother pulled the car over and called 911 when she became dizzy and began vomiting. An ambulance took mother and the children to a hospital, where a relative picked up the children and mother was treated for depression and acute alcohol intoxication. A mandated reporter contacted the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

DCFS filed a petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code[1] section 300, subdivision (b). DCFS alleged mother’s history of substance and alcohol abuse and emotional problems[2] rendered her incapable of providing regular care and supervision of the children and placed them at risk of physical and emotional harm and damage.

Mother was cooperative with DCFS. She acknowledged her history of mental health and substance abuse issues and expressed a willingness to address those issues. Mother also informed DCFS that she broke up with father in 2005 due to spousal abuse and had not known his whereabouts since then. According to mother’s initial statement, father had not had contact or visits with the children. However, she later stated on a parentage questionnaire that father had “received the child in his/her home.” M.W. and L.W. both stated that “they have not heard [from] or seen their father for a long time, ” and M.W. stated she had never seen anyone hit mother. DCFS ran a parent locator search for father on December 30, 2013 and found only an unverified address.

The juvenile court heard the petition on December 31, 2013. The court found that DCFS made a prima facie showing of jurisdiction and ordered the children detained with their maternal grandfather. The court granted mother a minimum of six hours of monitored visitation per week and gave DCFS discretion to place the children with mother at her inpatient treatment program. The court ordered DCFS to present evidence of due diligence in attempting to locate father before the next hearing, which was set for April 3, 2014.

DCFS filed a jurisdiction/disposition report on March 20, 2014. The report noted mother was “eager to comply with DCFS case plan and Court orders to

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get her children back into her care” and was progressing well in her inpatient treatment program. The report also indicated mother had spoken to DCFS about father. According to the report, mother informed DCFS that she had been in an emotionally abusive nonmarital relationship with father from 2005 through 2008. “[T]he last time that she and the children saw him was in July 2013”; mother did not know his current whereabouts or have any contact with him. The report noted that father “has not provided regular care to the children and his [whereabouts remain] unknown at this time.”

Sometime prior to the April 3, 2014 hearing, DCFS determined that father was housed in the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles. Father appeared at the hearing and completed a statement regarding parentage in which he stated that the children lived with him “from birth to 2012” and that he provided support for them. The court found him to be the presumed father.

Mother appeared at the hearing and pleaded no contest to the allegations contained in the petition as amended by interlineation. The court found the amended allegations true and determined that the children were persons described by section 300, subdivision (b). The court put over the disposition hearing to June 11, 2014 to enable DCFS to interview and assess father and monitor mother’s progress in her treatment program. The children remained in the care of their maternal grandfather.

DCFS interviewed father on May 20, 2014. According to a last minute information filed with the court, father told DCFS that he had “been with” mother for about 10 years and was still in a relationship with her. Father stated that he “has always been an active participant in his children’s lives.” Father also stated, however, that the children had not had contact with him during his incarceration and he did not want them to. Father told DCFS that he was arrested for assault on August 19, 2013, and remained in jail awaiting trial on that charge. He further ...


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