In re ARMANDO L., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. MERCED COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent,
SANDY M., Defendant and Appellant
from orders of the Superior Court of Merced County, No.
JP000930, Frank Dougherty, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
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S. Sass, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
N. Fincher, County Counsel, and Kimberly R. Helms, Deputy
County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
by Peña, J., with Levy, Acting P. J., and Poochigian,
Cal.Rptr.3d 861] PEÑA, J.
conclusion of a review hearing pursuant to Welfare and
Institutions Code section 364 on October 29, 2015, the
juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction over 11-year-old
Armando L., who had been a dependent of the juvenile court
for two years. Armando's mother, Sandy M. (mother),
contends the juvenile court improperly denied her an
evidentiary hearing on the issues of Armando's custody
and whether the court's jurisdiction should have been
terminated. We agree. In doing so, we reject the arguments of
Merced County Human Services Agency (agency) that the
juvenile court's denial of an evidentiary hearing was
proper because mother's objection was outside the scope
of the hearing, the evidence mother wanted to introduce was
irrelevant, and any error in the juvenile court's ruling
was harmless. Accordingly, the orders of the juvenile court
must be reversed.
October 30, 2013, a petition was filed pursuant to section
300 alleging Armando, then nine years old, had come to school
with bruises on his face caused by his father hitting him.
Father hit Armando because he was frustrated at not being
able to repair a neighbor's vacuum cleaner and had
slapped Armando in the face four times for no reason. Father
admitted he " popped" his son in the mouth after
Armando talked back to him. Armando had purple bruises on
both sides of his cheeks, under his eyes, and both sides of
his nose. There was redness on his left cheek with linear
lines appearing to be fingerprints.
to the petition, mother failed to contact the authorities to
report the abuse or to take Armando immediately to the
doctor. Mother did take photographs of Armando's
injuries. Armando reported he was disciplined by father and
father's girlfriend by being hit. Mother had legal and
physical custody of Armando, but left him in father's
care because Armando was [204 Cal.Rptr.3d 862] diagnosed with
ADHD and she had trouble controlling his behavioral problems.
In addition, mother had been diagnosed with ADHD and
depression and was raising three other children.
was immediately detained after the incident was reported to
school authorities on October 28, 2013, and the juvenile
court sustained the detention on October 31, 2013. Armando
reported to social workers another episode of being hit by
his father and explained he did not like staying with his
father. Mother told social workers she was concerned about
Armando's behaviors and believed she would have an easier
time controlling him with services. Mother reported she left
Armando's father because there was domestic violence
between them. Mother was unaware father was using drugs
around their son. Mother denied any domestic violence in her
reported to social workers Armando had been living with him
for about a year. Father admitted he had been in prison off
and on since he was 18 years old and denied having any
domestic violence in his current
relationship. Father admitted using methamphetamine once or
twice a month and claimed he did not buy it but it was given
to him at a friend's house. Father said he was prescribed
Vicodin and ibuprofen. Drug and hair follicle tests from
father right after Armando was detained tested positive for
agency recommended mother stabilize her mental health and
address the domestic violence of her past. The agency
recommended mother receive nurturing classes and have a
mental health assessment. The agency recommended family
reunification services for father, including parenting
classes and programs to address his substance abuse. These
would include a drug and alcohol assessment to determine the
extent of father's addiction. The agency recommended
family maintenance services for mother, with custody of
Armando with mother, and family reunification services for
father. At the joint jurisdiction/disposition hearing on
November 21, 2013, the juvenile court adopted the
recommendations of the agency ordering family maintenance
services for mother, reunification services for father, and
leaving Armando's custody with mother.
agency filed a supplemental petition pursuant to section 387
on April 4, 2014, seeking to remove Armando from mother's
custody. The petition alleged Armando had been diagnosed in
February 2014 with a mood disorder and ADHD. Armando was
being aggressive, defiant, and sexually inappropriate at
school, becoming a danger to himself and others. Although
mother and the social worker were working with Aspiranet
Wraparound Services, Armando was not responding adequately to
interventions and therapeutic work provided by the program.
Mother informed the social worker Armando was refusing to
take his medication, he had gained a great deal of weight,
and he was hoarding food in his bedroom.
agency sought a change of placement from mother to the
agency. Armando was placed in a group home. After
continuances, the joint jurisdiction/disposition hearing on
the supplemental petition was conducted on June 4, 2014. The
agency reported father had made progress in his case plan and
had maintained sobriety. Father completed training and had
negative drug tests. Mother was also making progress in her
case plan services, but Armando was not responding well after
receiving those services.
made efforts to provide additional supervision of Armando by
staying home full time, but Armando refused to follow his
mother's redirection. Armando's [204 Cal.Rptr.3d 863]
physician believed Armando's challenges were not the