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In re David B.

California Court of Appeals, First District, Fourth Division

June 7, 2017

In re DAVID B., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. CONTRA COSTA COUNTY CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES BUREAU, Plaintiff and Respondent,
DAVID B., Defendant and Appellant.

         Contra Costa County, No. J1500993 Superior Court Hon. Thomas M. Maddock Judge.

          Valerie N. Lankford, by appointment of the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Bay Area Legal Aid, Brian Blalock, Erin Palacios, and Sabrina Forte as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

          Sharon L. Anderson, County Counsel, Marke Estis, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          STREETER, J.

         We are asked to review the dismissal of a juvenile dependency petition for a young man, appellant David B., who at age 17, 11 months, was on the cusp of adulthood when the dependency petition in this case was filed, but who is now over age 18.

         David B., a victim of past gun violence, is a wheelchair-bound diabetic in need of day-to-day medical assistance. He was living in a homeless shelter when the dependency petition was filed. The petition alleges he was abandoned by his mother and left without means of support. If that is true and the juvenile court erred in dismissing the petition, he would almost certainly benefit from transitional support as a nonminor dependent until age 21.

         But there is a catch. Dependency jurisdiction may not be initiated in the first instance over someone who is over age 18; it must be initiated before age 18, and by the plain terms of the Juvenile Court Law, may only be “retain[ed], ” “continu[ed]” or “resum[ed]” for nonminors in certain circumstances until age 21. (E.g., Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 303, subds. (a), (c), 391, subd. (c)(1).) [1]

         In essence, the Legislature created a form of dependency jurisdiction for nonminors until age 21, but made it derivative of dependency jurisdiction assumed prior to age 18. What that means here, according to respondent Contra Costa County Children and Family Services Bureau (the Bureau), is that this case is now moot and any error by the juvenile court in failing to assume dependency jurisdiction over David B. is effectively unreviewable.

         Reluctantly, we must agree. Because David B. is now over age 18, he could not be declared a dependent on remand even if we were to conclude the juvenile court erred, and thus, at this point, we have no power to provide effective relief. We can order many things in resolving an appeal, but we cannot order David B. to be 17 again. We will therefore dismiss the appeal as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 24, 2015, the Bureau filed a dependency petition on behalf of David B. under section 300. In the petition, the Bureau contended the juvenile court had jurisdiction under section 300, subdivision (g), alleging specifically that David B.'s mother was unwilling or unable to provide for him, and that her whereabouts were unknown. The Bureau alleged David B.'s father was deceased.

         In a detention report filed on September 25, 2015, the Bureau stated it received a referral about David B. in July 2015. A social worker spoke with David B., who was wheelchair-bound and hospitalized due to complications from his diabetes. David B. told the social worker he was in the wheelchair because he had been shot several times in the past. The social worker stated he was pleasant but unwilling to provide personal information or family history. He told the social worker that both of his parents were deceased. The social worker spoke with David B.'s godmother, who stated David B.'s parents were deceased but would not provide additional information. Upon his discharge from the hospital, David B. returned by taxi to the youth homeless shelter where he had been staying. The Bureau closed the July 2015 referral, stating it could not verify his parents were deceased, he was receiving services at the shelter, and he was refusing the Bureau's services.

         In September 2015, the Bureau received another referral. David B. had left the shelter to live in San Francisco but had returned. He told the social worker that he had been living on the streets with his cousin, but that his cousin had been killed. He said he wanted to start a new life, including obtaining a high school diploma and living and working on his own, and needed the Bureau's assistance to do so. The social worker told David B. that, in order for the Bureau to provide him with assistance, he would need to provide truthful information about his situation. David B. then told the social worker that his mother was living in St. Louis, but that he was unable to provide contact information for her. He provided a telephone number for a maternal aunt; the social worker left two voicemail messages at that number but received no response. The social worker sent a letter to an address she located for David B.'s mother, asking her to contact the Bureau. The social worker also tried calling a number David B. provided for his mother's boyfriend, but the number was disconnected. At some point, David B. stated his mother lived in Chicago, rather than St. Louis.

         A case manager at the homeless shelter told the social worker that David B. was receiving some services through the shelter. The shelter had assisted him in taking steps to apply for public benefits and housing, to enroll in high school, and to obtain a California identification card. An attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid contacted the social worker and stated he was working with David B. to ensure he received services from the Bureau.

         At the detention hearing on September 25, 2015, the court found there was a prima facie showing that David B. was a person described by section 300. Consistent with the recommendations of counsel for the Bureau and counsel for David B., the court ordered that David B. be detained and that he remain at the homeless shelter where he had been staying, pending the location of a suitable placement. The court set a jurisdiction hearing for October 9, 2015, and a disposition hearing for October 14, 2015, both prior to David B.'s 18th birthday. The court told David B. he could be eligible for services until he turned 21. The court also told David B. it was important that he be “brutally honest” with the Bureau as it continued its investigation.

         In a memorandum report submitted for the October 9 hearing, the Bureau stated that both staff at the shelter and school personnel had reported David B. was not compliant with his diabetes medication regimen and was unwilling to monitor his blood sugar levels regularly. Staff at the shelter are not able to administer medication or require residents to take their medication; staff can only encourage residents to do so. A blood test conducted in July 2015 showed David B.'s diabetes had been out of control since at least April 2015. He needed to be medication-compliant to stay in school.

         Shelter staff also reported David B. had been hospitalized on Sunday, October 4, 2015. David B. had left the shelter after dinner on Friday, October 2, 2015, and had not returned until Sunday evening. He appeared intoxicated and was vomiting, and paramedics rushed him to the hospital. The paramedics stated David B. was combative during the ride to the hospital. At the hospital, it was determined he was hyperglycemic and suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis. He also had possible swelling of the brain. He was confused, incoherent and combative, and had to be restrained by hospital staff. Once his condition stabilized, the hospital was ready to release him, but wanted shelter staff to be trained to administer David B.'s insulin shots. As noted, however, shelter staff cannot administer medication. Shelter staff informed the social worker that the shelter has a respite program with 24-hour medical supervision, and the Bureau was also exploring other possible placements for David B.

         At the October 9 hearing, counsel for the Bureau stated the Bureau had managed to contact David B.'s adult sister, who lived in San Francisco. Counsel stated that David B.'s sister had reported their mother was alive and identified the city and state where the mother lived. Counsel stated the sister reported that the mother raised both David B. and the sister, and that David B. had left home on his own. Counsel stated the Bureau wanted to attempt to send formal notice to the mother, stating “this may not be an abandonment case.” Counsel for David B. responded by stating she believed the Department had already sent two letters to the mother and had not received a response. The court set a contested jurisdiction/disposition hearing for October 14, 2015.

         In a memorandum report submitted for the October 14 hearing, the Bureau, in a turnabout from its initial position in the case, recommended the petition be dismissed, stating that the information on which it had been based had turned out not to be true. The Bureau stated it had spoken with David B.'s maternal great-great aunt. The great-great aunt stated she is “ ‘the only one who cares' ” about David B. The great-great aunt told the Bureau that, when David B.'s father died, David B.'s mother and maternal grandmother took David B. back to Jennings, Missouri to live. David B. later made his way to Chicago, Illinois, where he was shot, and then to Texas, where he was shot again. The great-great aunt stated that, after David B. was shot in Texas, he contacted his maternal grandmother, but she “would not allow [David B.] to return home to Jennings, Missouri.” Instead, David B.'s grandmother told him to make his way to San Francisco to locate his maternal uncle, whom David B. did not know. David B. located his uncle, who is homeless, and lived with him on the streets of San Francisco. David B. later lived in youth homeless shelters. The great-great aunt herself was unable to provide care for David B. because she was 82 years old, lived in a studio apartment with no kitchen, and was on a fixed income.

         The Bureau also reported it had spoken with David B.'s 19-year-old sister. Although the sister provided information, she responded to most of the social worker's questions by saying “ ‘I don't know.' ” The sister stated their mother was in Jennings, Missouri. The Bureau stated that David B.'s sister “reported that their mother was willing to be involved in David B.'s care.” David B.'s sister stated their mother had cared for them. She described her childhood with their mother as “ ‘great' ” and told the Bureau that their mother provided for their material needs and supported them emotionally. The Bureau reported that the sister “stated the reason [David B.] was not with their mother was that he wanted to be ‘grown' and to do what he wanted to do.” The sister declined to forward any information about David B.'s situation to their mother.

         The Bureau also described its unsuccessful efforts to contact David B.'s mother. On October 8 and 10, 2015, the social worker telephoned David B.'s maternal grandmother twice and left voicemail messages, explaining the reason she was calling and requesting a return call, but the grandmother did not call back. The social worker also repeatedly attempted to reach David B.'s mother by telephone (using a number provided by David B.'s sister) from October 8 through October 10, 2015. The social worker left two detailed messages, each time identifying herself, stating the reason for her call, and requesting that the mother of David B. return the call. On the third attempt, the social worker spoke with a woman who identified herself as David B.'s mother's cousin. The cousin stated that the phone number belonged to her, and that David B.'s mother was using it as a temporary contact number. The cousin stated she lived in New York. She stated David B.'s mother was temporarily in New York for an unknown period of time, but the cousin did not know David B.'s mother's whereabouts. The cousin declined to forward information to David B.'s mother about his situation.

         The hospital social worker told the Bureau that David B.'s diabetes was under control and he was medically ready to be discharged. But he needed to be discharged to a caregiver who was trained to assist in administering his insulin, and the hospital was waiting for the Bureau to locate a placement in which such care could be provided. Hospital staff also recommended David B. undergo a neuropsychiatric evaluation, in light of questions about his critical thinking ...

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