California Court of Appeals, First District, Third Division
In re CARL H., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. SAN FRANCISCO HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent,
N.B., Defendant and Appellant; CARL H., a Minor, etc., Objector and Appellant. In re HARMONY F., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. SAN FRANCISCO HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent,
N.B. et al., Defendants and Appellants; HARMONY F., a Minor, etc., Objector and Appellant
FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION]
Superior Court of San Francisco County, No. JD153221, No.
JD153222, Newton J. Lam, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
J. Harvie, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant N.B.
I. Olson, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant K.F.
Wickham Furth, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Objector and Appellant Carl H.
Forrest Gorman, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Objector and Appellant Harmony F.
Sugerman, City Attorney, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
A. Barry, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Respondent Carl Sr.
Acting P. J., and Jenkins, J., concurring.
Cal.Rptr.3d 825] SIGGINS, J.
(Mother) and her daughter Harmony F. appeal from juvenile
court orders establishing jurisdiction over Harmony and
bypassing family reunification services for Mother. The court
found that Mother's neglect contributed to the death of
Harmony's baby sister Melody and that there was no clear
and convincing evidence that offering Mother reunification
services was in Harmony's best interest. Mother asserts
neither finding is supported by the record and that the
denial of reunification services was an abuse of discretion.
Harmony also challenges the denial of reunification services.
Harmony's father, Kevin F., joins in their arguments.
separate appeal Mother challenges the juvenile
court's assertion of jurisdiction over her son Carl H.
(Carl Jr.). Carl Jr. contends the court erred when it
dismissed his petition after establishing dependency
jurisdiction over him. He also asserts the bypass of services
for Mother was an abuse of discretion.
under the relevant legal standard, the record supports the
court's jurisdictional findings and the bypass of
services to Mother. However, the dismissal of Carl Jr.'s
dependency case because findings were unsustained as to his
custodial parent was error. We therefore reverse in part,
affirm in part and remand to the juvenile court for further
Preceding Melody's Death
by a mother who struggled with addiction, Mother's
childhood was marked by abuse and neglect. When she was 13
years old she began an
abusive and violent relationship with Carl Sr., then a
20-year-old high school dropout. Their child, Carl Jr., was
born when Mother was 14.
she was still a minor, Mother left Carl Sr. and was in a
relationship with Kevin F. That relationship, too, was
characterized by domestic violence. Mother and Kevin F. had
two children: Harmony F., born March 2012, and Melody F.,
born November 2013.
Cal.Rptr.3d 826] The family, including both fathers, had at
least 13 referrals to child protective services (CPS) for
physical and emotional abuse and neglect before Melody died
in 2015. In 2012 Carl Sr. learned that Kevin F. was hitting
Carl Jr. and calling him names. This led to fighting between
the two men and CPS intervention. To protect her son, Mother
gave Carl Sr. full custody of Carl Jr. with visitation for
her every other weekend. From then until December 2014,
father and son lived with Carl Jr.'s paternal
grandfather. However, both parents used the maternal
grandmother (Grandmother) as a respite caregiver. Carl Jr.
thus stayed with Grandmother when Carl Sr. was arrested in
January 2013 and again in May 2014, and she watched Carl Jr.
when Carl Sr. ran errands. Grandmother also looked after all
three children at least two weekends a month when Mother had
to work and Kevin F. was unwilling to take care of their
February 2014 Carl Jr., then six years old, was staying with
Grandmother while his father was incarcerated. Grandmother
asked the boy to pick up a methadone pill she had dropped.
Carl Jr. picked up the pill and swallowed it. He was
immediately taken to the hospital, and survived.
this incident, protective services worker Jonathan Newsome
interviewed family members at the hospital and later in
Grandmother's home. The home was extremely cluttered but
did not appear dirty. Newsome did not see any inappropriately
stored medications or other overt safety hazards. Mother said
she lived in an HUD-approved apartment but was temporarily
living in a hotel while repairs were being made. She had a
court date in family court the next month to change Carl
Jr.'s custody arrangement. Mother told Newsome she could
care for her son full time with help from a cousin and other
family members. With Carl Sr. incarcerated, Newsome
determined the hospital could release Carl Jr. to
Francisco Human Services Agency (the Agency) convened a team
decision making meeting with Mother, Grandmother and Carl Sr.
to address the children's safety. They agreed the
children would not return to Grandmother's home until it
was properly cleaned and organized. Grandmother agreed not to
take medications in front of the children or leave them
within the children's reach. Carl Sr. agreed not to yell
at his son or abuse him
emotionally, verbally or physically, to use age-appropriate
tools for discipline and redirection, and to follow up with
services that had been ordered in his criminal case. Carl Jr.
was to remain in Carl Sr.'s care and his sisters would
remain with Mother, " with a significant amount of
services for both mother and father."
wrote that " mother appears to be very resilient yet at
the same time overwhelmed. She is working, attending school,
and caring for her children when at all possible. She appears
to be utilizing the support she has at her disposal but the
Department can only hope that her children don't suffer
with [her] busy and ambitious schedule. It has been very
clearly presented that so long as the [Grandmother's]
home is in [its] current state (extreme clutter), the
children are not allowed to be cared for there." Newsome
concluded the children were not at an imminent risk in
Mother's care, " and therefore the Department feels
that closing the referral after having connected the family
to DR and Safe Care services is appropriate."
6, 2014, protective services worker Jane Phan visited
Grandmother's home after hearing that Carl Jr. was
staying there with Mother while Carl Sr. was in jail for
non-compliance with court-ordered domestic violence classes,
and that the house was so severely cluttered it was [212
Cal.Rptr.3d 827] unsafe. Mother had left Kevin F. after he
physically assaulted her while she was holding
seven-month-old Melody. Mother reported she was working with
Homeless Prenatal Program and SafeCare workers and asked for
help obtaining other services.
10 Phan spoke with Carl Jr. and his father in their home at
the paternal grandfather's house. Carl Jr. said that
during his weekends with Mother he stayed at
Grandmother's home. He did not stay at Mother's house
because Kevin F. lived there. Carl Sr. told Phan he would
drop Carl Jr. off at Grandmother's house for visits with
Mother. He said there was some clutter there and mentioned
Carl Jr.'s February 2014 methadone incident, but overall
he had " no concerns" about Grandmother. The Agency
concluded no action was required.
December 2014 Carl Sr. got into a fight with the paternal
grandfather. As a result, he and Carl Jr. moved out of the
grandfather's home and moved in with Grandmother. He
later told a social worker he did not think living at
Grandmother's was a problem because Carl Jr. was now
older and understood not to take her medications.
April 17, 2015, Mother dropped Harmony and Melody off with
Grandmother. Carl Sr. got home around midnight and went to
sleep in an
upstairs bedroom. Mother came back around 2:30 a.m. She
checked on the children, who appeared to be fine. In the
morning Grandmother discovered that Melody was not breathing
and called an ambulance. Melody, then 17 months old, died
that morning from acute methadone toxicity.
incident was investigated by protective services worker (PSW)
Nicole Lock. On July 16 she and PSW Alicia Rodriguez
conducted an unannounced visit to Grandmother's home. The
home " was extremely cluttered and there was a current
hoarding issue in the home. Although there is space to walk
around the home, the undersigned immediately determined that
the home was not safe for children to reside. ... [T]he home
was filled with racks of clothes in the living room, boxes of
clothes, paperwork, piles of other various items. The
undersigned also observed medication containers on the piano,
on the coffee table, and in brown grocery bags on the floor
of the living room. ... [T]he bedroom downstairs cannot be
used for sleeping due to tremendous clutter." In the
room where Melody spent her last night there were " a
lot of medication bottles kept on the side of the bed table,
on top of the dressers, and there were miscellaneous pills on
top of the furniture." Some of the medications were
within the children's reach.
pointed out various safety concerns and told Carl Sr. that
Grandmother's home was inappropriate for children. Carl
Sr. said he never left his son alone or unsupervised in the
house, and that he had nothing to do with Melody's death.
forensic interview on July 20, Carl Jr. said his father and
Grandmother smoked cigarettes and " blunts," which
were long and brown " and they put some type of stuff,
green stuff in it." In addition, both Grandmother and
her mother (Nanny), who also lived in the house, had pills,
like methadone, stomach pills, " pooping pills,"
headache pills and pain pills. Carl Jr. knew where the pills
were kept. He said " all three of us--all the children
can get into them, 'cause they need to put them in a safe
place with a lock, that's where they need to put them, so
no one can get to the pills and take one." Asked if that
had ever happened, Carl Jr. answered: " I picked one up
off the floor and took one" and " that's what
happened with my sister. [¶ ] ... [¶ ] The one that
Cal.Rptr.3d 828] Carl Jr. said Nanny kept a pill bottle, as
well as cookies and " a lot of stuff" on her bed,
so he thought Melody probably woke up and got a methadone
pill from there. He knew the bottle contained methadone
because " every time--she has me read the bottle.
[¶ ] ... [¶ ] And she has me make her pills
too." He explained that he usually prepared Nanny's
pills when her caregiver did not come to work. The last time
he remembered giving Nanny her pills was when he was seven,
but he stopped doing it after the February 2014 incident.
Jr. said he thought Grandmother kept methadone in three bags
on the floor. She also had " hecka pills" in a pill
box. It was " so easy" to get into
Grandmother's pills, " all you have to do is ...