California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division
In re PRISCILLA A., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
JUAN A., Defendant and Appellant LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
granted by, Review pending at, 07/12/2017
SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA GRANTED REVIEW IN THIS MATTER
(see Cal. Rules of Court, rules 8.1105(e)(1)(B), 8.1115(e))
July 12, 2017
from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No.
DK15337, Julie Fox Blackshaw, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
J. Vogel, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
Wickham, County Counsel, R. Keith Davis, Assistant County
Counsel, and Stephen D. Watson, Deputy County Counsel, for
Plaintiff and Respondent.
by Lui, J., with Rothschild, P. J., and Johnson, J.,
Cal.Rptr.3d 659] LUI, J.
this juvenile dependency case, defendant and appellant Juan
A. (Father) challenges the juvenile court's jurisdiction
and disposition orders. In particular, Father argues the
juvenile court erred in exercising dependency jurisdiction
over his daughter Priscilla A. (Daughter) because she was not
at substantial risk of serious physical harm and, even if she
had been, Father neither did nor failed to do anything to
cause that risk of harm. Because Daughter was not abused,
neglected, or exploited and Father neither did nor failed to
do anything to put Daughter at any risk of harm, we conclude
dependency jurisdiction was not proper here.
Daughter's Difficult Transition from El
arrived in the United States from El Salvador in April 2014,
when she was 11½ years old. She came to the United
States to live with Father, who wanted Daughter to have
better opportunities than those available in her birth
country. Upon arrival in the United States, immigration
services detained Daughter for two months. She arrived at
Father's home in Los Angeles in June 2014.
moved in with Father and his family, which included his wife
(Stepmother) and four other children, ages one, two, 12 and
17. This was a difficult transition for Daughter. She had a
tough time getting along with her new family, especially
Stepmother. Daughter did not like doing chores or following
the family rules. Daughter often tested and broke the rules
and was disrespectful. She did not want to dress modestly.
She did not communicate comfortably with Father, did not want
to [217 Cal.Rptr.3d 660] eat with the family (despite being
asked to do so), did not want Stepmother to drive her to
school (despite being offered), and did not tend to her
Daughter reported feeling safe in Father's home. She knew
Father would listen to her if she decided to talk to him. She
said, " 'I don't want to [talk to him] but I
know he will listen.'" Daughter denied any type of
abuse at home.
everyone interviewed by the Los Angeles County Department of
Children and Family Services (Department), including Daughter
herself, indicated that Daughter lied a lot. In fact, the
reason the Department filed a petition in this case was based
on a story that Daughter later recanted (discussed below). In
addition, Daughter told her mother that Father hit her, but
later said he never did. She said her brother raped and
sexually assaulted her in El Salvador, but later admitted
that was not true. She also said she wanted to return to El
Salvador, but later said she wanted to stay in the United
States and live with her maternal uncle in Texas. It is
difficult to tell whether or when Daughter told the truth.
never abused Daughter or any of the other children. Father
gave Daughter an allowance and stated he " 'would
talk to [Daughter] for hours and try to explain to her right
from wrong. I never hit her but I would take things she liked
like her computer, TV.'" At one point, in light of
Daughter's troubling behavior and at her insistence,
Father investigated whether and how Daughter could return
legally to her mother in El Salvador. He stated he wanted
Daughter either to stay with him or to return to her mother
in El Salvador because they are her parents and are
responsible for her care. Father believed his problems with
Daughter began when he told Daughter her clothes were not
appropriate for her age. " 'She doesn't like to
be told what to do. She doesn't like to be told to dress
modestly.'" Father acknowledged Daughter had
behavior problems and that it would take time to build a
relationship with her.
never abused her children or Daughter, although she slapped
Daughter's face once when Daughter was arguing with her.
There were no injuries or marks as a result of that slap.
Stepmother reiterated many of the things Father had reported,
including that Daughter was disrespectful, did not like the
family rules, and did not like being told to dress modestly.
Stepmother said she had Daughter's best interests in mind
and was concerned for Daughter's safety. Daughter would
leave the house early and return late from school. Stepmother
stated she tried to explain many things to Daughter when she
first arrived in the United States, but Daughter refused to
listen. Stepmother acknowledged the difficulties of not being
Daughter's biological mother. Stepmother expressed
surprise at many of the things Daughter would say and,
eventually, Stepmother stopped trying to discipline her.
According to Stepmother, Daughter said she hated Stepmother
because she had married Father. Stepmother also indicated she
believed at times Daughter acted out on
purpose because she wanted to be sent back to El Salvador.
Stepmother explained she and Father had investigated whether
and how Daughter could return legally to El Salvador.
October 2015 Referral
Monday, October 26, 2015, the Department received a referral
alleging Daughter was at risk of abuse from Stepmother and
Father. The referring party reported then 13-year-old
Daughter was late to school that morning because she had to
walk to school and almost passed out from hunger when she
arrived. According [217 Cal.Rptr.3d 661] to the referral,
Daughter said she had not eaten since Saturday, Stepmother
would cook for everyone in the home except for Daughter, and
Stepmother would drive the other children to school but made
Daughter walk to school. Daughter also said Stepmother hit
her on the mouth with a wooden spoon and " busted"
her lip. But Daughter indicated the incident had happened a
week earlier so her lip injury had healed. Daughter said
Father was aware of everything but refused to protect her.
The referring party reported Daughter appeared depressed and
cried all the time because of the way Stepmother treated her.
result of the October 2015 referral, a Department social
worker interviewed Daughter, Father, Stepmother, and other
family members. Daughter admitted she had lied about not
being fed and being forced to walk to school. She also
admitted she lied about Stepmother hitting her in the mouth
with a wooden spoon. Instead, both Daughter and Stepmother
explained they had been arguing when Stepmother slapped
Daughter in the face with her hand and there had been no
injury. That was the only time Stepmother hit Daughter. There
was no evidence of any type of abuse by anyone. The
Department referred Daughter to therapy services and the
family to in-home counseling. The Department did not
immediately file a petition on Daughter's behalf.
First Involuntary Hospitalization December 20, 2015, ...