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In re A.G.

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

June 16, 2017

In re A.G. et al., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. SAN DIEGO COUNTY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
A.J., Defendant and Appellant.

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No. NJ15122ABC Blaine K. Bowman, Judge. Affirmed in part; reversed in part.

          Neale Bachmann Gold, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Thomas E. Montgomery, County Counsel, John E. Philips, Chief Deputy County Counsel, Patrice Plattner-Grainger, Senior Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          O'ROURKE, J.

         A.J. appeals from a 12-month review hearing at which the juvenile court returned his children to their mother's care. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 366.21, subd. (f).)[1] He contends the court erred when it found that he had been offered or provided reasonable services. We agree and reverse the reasonable services finding as to A.J. In all other respects, the findings and orders are affirmed.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A.J. and R.G. are the parents of three children, who are now ten, nine and seven years old. In November 2011, A.J. was arrested and deported to Mexico after he assaulted R.G. R.G. obtained an order prohibiting A.J. from having contact with her and the children.

         After A.J. was deported, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) investigated 13 child protective services referrals on behalf of the children. The referrals were largely related to R.G.'s alcohol use and failure to supervise the children. In February 2013, October 2013, and February 2014, the Agency substantiated allegations that R.G. was neglecting the children. In October 2015, the Agency detained the children in protective custody and initiated dependency proceedings after an "extremely intoxicated" R.G. was arrested and jailed on charges of grand theft.

         R.G. said she did not have contact information for A.J. The Agency conducted a due diligence search for father in California, but did not try to locate him in Mexico. In November 2015, the court sustained the dependency petitions, removed the children from parental custody, and ordered the Agency to offer or provide reunification services to R.G.

         On April 14, 2016, A.J. telephoned the social worker to ask about the children's welfare. He said R.G. had contacted him through Facebook and told him about the children's dependency proceedings. On April 18, A.J. told the social worker he wanted custody of the children. He had not seen them in approximately two years. The social worker sent a copy of the petition and other paperwork to A.J., who was living in Tijuana, B.C., Mexico.

         On June 9, A.J. told the social worker he wanted the children to be placed with him and was willing to participate in reunification services and "do whatever is needed to have contact with the children." The Agency submitted a request to the International Liaison to arrange a border visit with the children at the Mexican Consulate. The Agency asked the social services agency, Desarrollo Integral para la Familia (DIF), to conduct an evaluation of A.J.'s home and provide parenting education and domestic violence prevention classes to him. At the six-month review hearing on June 13, the court ordered the Agency to offer or provide reasonable services to the parents, and to prepare a case plan for A.J. by July 18.

         On July 19, A.J. told the social worker he wanted to have regular contact with the children as often as possible. He had had one visit with the children, with no concerns. The Agency submitted a request for ongoing visitation to the Mexican Consulate. However, A.J. withdrew his requests for a home evaluation and reunification services after speaking to DIF. He decided not to ask for placement because he was unable to pay for the children's education in Mexico. A.J. believed it was in their best interests to stay in the United States to complete their education. The social worker advised A.J. to speak with his attorney before waiving reunification services. A.J. said he had not heard from his attorney and asked the social worker to contact his attorney and give her his telephone number, which the social worker did.

         After speaking with his attorney, A.J. asked the court to order the Agency to provide reunification services to him. He wanted to be able to care for the children if they did not reunify with their mother. On July 25, the court[2] ordered the Agency to provide supervised visitation between A.J. and the children at the international border, and prepare a case plan for A.J. within 30 days.

         On August 19, the Agency submitted a case plan for A.J. to the court. The case plan required A.J. to attend individual or group counseling to address domestic violence, and participate in a parenting education program.

         On October 24, the Agency reported it had sent a referral to DIF to provide case plan services to A.J. DIF was unable to find a domestic violence group and had not yet referred A.J. to a parenting education program. The Agency was looking for alternate service providers to locate services ...


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