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In re Hannah D.

California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

March 10, 2017

In re Hannah D. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
TRAVIS H., Defendant and Appellant. TULARE COUNTY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent, v.


         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Tulare County Nos. JJV068732A-D. Robert Anthony Fultz, Judge.

          Jesse F. Rodriguez, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Kathleen Bales-Lange, County Counsel, John A. Rozum and Abel C. Martinez, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


          POOCHIGIAN, J.

         Events Preceding the Commencement of the Dependency Case

         Tristan H. was born to Cheyenne J. and appellant Travis H. on January 14, 2015. He tested positive for methadone and was exhibiting “severe withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with being a drug exposed infant.”

         Travis and Cheyenne have two other children together: Jonathan H. and Christopher H. Cheyenne also has an older child, Hannah D., whose father was Casey D. Casey D. was not involved in Hannah D.'s life and his whereabouts were unknown.

         A social worker met with Cheyenne on February 2, 2015.[1] Cheyenne was living with Hannah D.'s paternal grandfather, Rocky J. Rocky had cared for Hannah D. since she was two years old. Rocky would sometimes watch the other children for Cheyenne, but did not do so full time.

         Cheyenne admitted to the social worker that she had a history of methamphetamine use and had entered a methadone program when she was three months pregnant with Tristan.

         Cheyenne told the social worker that Rocky had “kicked [Travis] out of their home” on February 1, 2015, “due to the family issues and Travis doing nothing to help out with the care of the children.” The social worker tried to contact Travis on multiple occasions, leaving messages on his cell phone. His whereabouts remained unknown until March 13, 2015.

         On March 9, 2015, Cheyenne “went to criminal court in regards to her old warrants and drug use. She was ordered to be on formal probation, start a court ordered drug program, and lower her doses of methadone.” A social worker met with Cheyenne after the criminal hearing and noted she was “on [her] methadone prescription and appeared to be slightly disoriented, her speech was slurred and thought process was a little delayed.” Cheyenne admitted she was overwhelmed with her current situation.

         Also on March 9, 2015, a doctor from the hospital where Tristan was still being treated called the social worker to express concern at the possibility of the child going home with Cheyenne. Cheyenne had only visited two times in the past two months, and Travis had not visited at all. Hospital staff expressed concern over not being able to work with Cheyenne with respect to the proper care of Tristan.

         On March 11, 2015, Cheyenne agreed to a voluntary family maintenance case. She was scheduled for “couplet care” of Tristan at the hospital. “Couplet care was for the mother to spend the night with the child Tristan and receive hands on education along with monitoring the mother's ability.”

         The next day, hospital staff called the social worker to inform her that Cheyenne's performance at couplet care was inadequate. Tristan had cried for seven minutes and could be heard by hospital staff from outside the room. Yet, Cheyenne did not wake up until hospital staff roused her. After Cheyenne began to feed Tristan, she again fell asleep with Tristan in her arms. The social worker called Cheyenne and advised her to do a second night of couplet care to show she is able to care for Tristan. She did not show up for couplet care and called hospital staff saying she could no longer attend couplet care.

         Tristan ultimately spent 55 days in the NICU.

         On March 11, 2015, Tulare County Child Welfare Services (CWS) received a referral alleging Travis was intoxicated while on vacation with three-year-old Jonathan H.[2] The referral alleged Travis, who smelled heavily of alcohol, “became violent in front of the child.” Travis denied the allegation and said he was trying to break down a door to get into a bedroom where his mother and Jonathan were. Travis claimed he was concerned about his mother because she had had a mild heart attack in the past.

         CWS detained Tristan on March 13, 2015.

         Commencement of Dependency Case

         On March 17, 2015, CWS filed a juvenile dependency petition concerning all four children. At the time, Hannah D. was six years old, Jonathan H. was three years old, Christopher H. was 11 months old, and Tristan H. was two months old.

         The petition alleged Tristan had tested positive for methadone and had exhibited “severe withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with being a drug exposed infant.” It further alleged Cheyenne's substance abuse rendered her unable to care for the four children. CWS also claimed that Travis knew or should have known of Cheyenne's substance abuse and failed to protect the children. CWS did not detain Hannah, [3] Jonathan or Christopher at that time.

         The detention report indicated that Travis associates with skinheads and has white supremacist tattoos. The report also contained the following notations pertaining to Travis:

         “SUSTAIN Tulare County Superior Court Sustain system showed history of ten criminal court cases that were filed from 2002 to 2014. The most recent charges (459PC Burglary, 496aPC Receive/Etc Known Stolen Property, 594aPC Vandalism, 667.5(b)PC Special Allegation Prior Prison) were from 06-08-14 and not guilty plea was entered 09-09-14 - next hearing: 03-16-15 for Preliminary Setting. [¶] … [¶]

         “ADSI Tulare County Sheriffs Office Jail Management system (ID# 278320) - Subject has history of eighteen bookings from August 2014 back to December 2000.

         “Charges included 459PC Burglary, 496aPC Receive/Etc Known Stolen Property, 594aPC Vandalism, 10851aVC Auto Theft, 496dPC Buy/Receive Stolen Vehicle, 14601.1VC Drive while License Suspended, 466PC Possess Burglary Tools, 470PC Forgery, 484e(b)PC Theft, 11561HS Proceeding for Parolee Addict, 3056PC Violation of Parole, 148PC Resisting Arrest, 11550aHS Use/Under the Influence of Controlled Substance, 4140BP Unauthorized Possession of Hypodermic Needle/Syringe, 11364HS Possess Controlled Substance Paraphernalia, 11350aHS Possess Narcotic Controlled Substance, 23153aVC DUI with Injury, 475PC Possess Forged Instrument, 4150BP Obtain Hypodermic Needle/Syringe by Fraud, 11357aHS Possess Concentrated Cannabis.”

         At the detention hearing on March 18, 2015, the court ordered Tristan detained. The court granted Cheyenne and Travis supervised visitation for two hours, three times per week with Tristan. The court also ordered Cheyenne not to breastfeed Tristan.

         On March 25, 2015, the social worker referred Travis for an alcohol and other drug (AOD) assessment and random drug testing. Travis signed both referrals.

         On March 26, 2015, social workers met with Travis. Travis was living with his mother, grandmother and Jonathan.

         Travis said Jonathan had been “born exposed to marijuana.” As a result, Travis had already completed parenting education and a class about drug-exposed infants. A social worker explained that while he had completed those services in the past, CWS believed the same “issues” continued to exist. Travis said he agreed and was willing to address CWS's concerns.

         Travis said he began using marijuana in high school. At the age of 22, he suffered a head injury, which resulted in him experiencing several seizures a day. Because of the head injury, he does not remember much of his life between the ages of 22 and 27. However, he did admit to using methamphetamine, heroin and prescription drugs. Travis claimed that when Jonathan was born, he quit using. After a recent hospitalization, he was prescribed morphine and other opiates. He did not want to take those medications and therefore sought methadone treatment. Travis stopped the methadone treatment on his own.

         Travis claimed he was not aware of Cheyenne's drug use.

         A social worker provided Travis with a monthly bus pass at the March 26, 2015, meeting. The social worker also submitted a referral for a mental health assessment and advised Travis a clinician would be contacting him to set up the assessment. Travis indicated he understood.

         Also on March 26, 2015, the social worker referred Travis to an in-home parenting class through family services and to respite care through Parenting Network to assist with childcare needs “and to support the completion of his services.” Travis's grandmother also said she would help Travis with his childcare needs so he could commence services.

         On March 30, 2015, neither Cheyenne nor Travis showed up for a scheduled visitation with Tristan.

         The jurisdiction/disposition report signed March 31, 2015, indicated Tristan was still suffering from methadone withdrawals and required 24-hour care.

         On April 7, 2015, Cheyenne told a social worker that, as a result of a drug court hearing the previous day, she was required to rapidly detox from methadone so that she could start testing and begin a counseling program. Cheyenne admitted to relapsing on April 5, 2015, by “smoking a few puffs of Meth.” The children were with their paternal grandmother at the time.

         Jurisdiction Hearing

         At the jurisdiction hearing on April 17, 2015, Cheyenne and Travis each waived their rights and submitted on the petition and reports. Some of the allegations in the petition were amended to reflect Cheyenne had been on prescription methadone.

         Travis's counsel said he had not yet begun his case plan because he was in the middle of a job that was “wrapping up.” When the job was completed, Travis was prepared to begin drug testing and classes. Travis's counsel said Travis had missed visits with Tristan because of his job.

         The court continued Tristan's removal from Cheyenne and Travis's custody, but stated CWS “is authorized to return the child Tristan, to the mother, once the child is physically well.” Cheyenne and Travis were again granted two-hour visits with Tristan, three times per week. CWS was permitted to increase the length and frequency of the visits and to permit unsupervised and overnight visits. The court also granted visitation to Tristan's maternal and paternal grandparents. The court continued Cheyenne and Travis's custody of Hannah, Jonathan and Christopher.

         Supplemental Petition and Detention Report

         On May 7, 2015, CWS filed a supplemental petition (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 387)[4] concerning Hannah, Jonathan, and Christopher. The petition alleged that Travis failed to drug test seven times from March 31 to April 24, and that he had not “followed through with any court ordered services of parenting classes and counseling.” Travis claimed he had been working, but he provided no pay stubs and no one responded at the phone number he provided for his purported employer. According to the detention report, he had not visited Tristan a single time.

         The petition further alleged that Travis assaulted his mother on or around May 3, 2015. The detention report stated that Travis had gotten into an argument with his mother, Leann, over an EBT card. Travis assaulted Leann, causing an injury to her hand. Jonathan was also pushed to the ground.[5] Travis was locked out of the house, so he threw a flowerpot through a window, shattering glass into the home. He then attempted to kick the door down while screaming and yelling.

         The petition also alleged that Cheyenne had failed to drug test eight times from April 6 to April 25, and tested positive for opiates on April 15, 2015.[6] Cheyenne had also been incarcerated for a week for noncompliance with a program ordered by drug court.

         CWS had detained Hannah and Christopher on May 6 and detained Jonathan on May 7. CWS attempted to detain Jonathan several times on May 6. That night, Leann left a message on the social worker's phone saying the social worker was not going to take her grandson. She said, “ ‘[Y]ou better no [sic] jerk this kid out of this home he is fine with his grandparents.' ” She put Jonathan on the phone and had him say, “ ‘You're not going to take me away.' ” She said Travis had “messed up” but was now “taken care of.”[7]

         When Jonathan was taken into custody, Travis sent text messages to family members saying he wanted to say goodbye because he was going to kill himself. Visalia police were unable to locate Travis.

         Leann sought placement of Jonathan, but CWS concluded such a placement would not be appropriate at the time. As to Leann's request, the detention report observed: “There have been no steps to protect the children from the parents' ongoing substance abuse and incarceration. Both parents reside in respective grandparents['] homes at this time [grandparents] have not shown the ability to protect the kids from the parents.”

         Detention Hearing as to Hannah, Jonathan and Christopher

         At the detention hearing on May 8, 2015, the court ordered Hannah, Jonathan and Christopher detained. The court granted semi-weekly, hour-long visits to Cheyenne and Travis. Travis did not appear at the hearing.

         Jurisdiction/Disposition Report and Hearing

         The jurisdiction/disposition report, signed May 26, 2015, indicated that Travis had not contacted CWS since the detention hearing.[8] Travis had still not complied with any component of his services.

         The police report concerning Travis's May 3, 2015, assault of his mother was attached to the jurisdiction/disposition report. The report indicated that a witness said Travis had “been out of control for the last several weeks and that he uses [Jonathan] as a bartering tool with his mother to allow him to reside at the residence.”

         Neither Cheyenne nor Travis appeared for the jurisdiction/disposition hearing. The court found the allegations in the petition to be true. CWS was still awaiting one response to the Indian Child Welfare Act ...

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