Z.Q., Petitioner, v. MERCED COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY

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Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.

Z.Q., Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF MERCED COUNTY, Respondent; MERCED COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Real Party in Interest.

F060785

Decided: November 23, 2010

Z.Q., in pro. per., for Petitioner.   No appearance for Respondent.   James N. Fincher, County Counsel, and James B. Tarhalla, Deputy County Counsel, for Real Party in Interest.

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

O P I N I O N

Petitioner in propria persona seeks an extraordinary writ (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.452) from respondent court's order issued at a contested dispositional hearing denying petitioner reunification services and setting a Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 1 hearing as to her infant son J. We will deny the petition.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE AND FACTS

Petitioner has a long history of drug abuse.   In August 2008, her daughter Z. was detained because of petitioner's drug use.   As part of a plan to reunify petitioner with Z., she was ordered to participate in the Dependency Drug Treatment Court program.   However, in September 2009, she elected to discontinue the program.   In December 2010, the juvenile court terminated her reunification services and, on May 10, 2010, the court terminated her parental rights as to Z. Less than two weeks later, petitioner gave birth to J. 10 weeks prematurely.   Both she and J. tested positive for marijuana.

The Merced County Human Services Agency (agency) filed a dependency petition and the juvenile court ordered J. detained.   In late August 2010, the juvenile court convened a contested jurisdictional/dispositional hearing to adjudicate the agency's recommendation to deny petitioner reunification services pursuant to section 361.5, subdivision (b)(10) and (13).

Two witnesses testified on petitioner's behalf.   Melvin Beckwith, director of Central Valley Addiction Center, a substance abuse and alcohol drug treatment facility, testified he collected a hair follicle sample from petitioner in early to mid-August 2010, which yielded negative results.   Socorro Reyes, employed by the County Alcohol and Drug Services, testified she began seeing petitioner in mid-June 2010 during group sessions.   Asked how long petitioner had been using drugs, she testified petitioner began using drugs when she was a teenager.   Ms. Reyes did not know petitioner's exact age but believed her to be in her thirties.   She said petitioner used marijuana and methamphetamine.   She also testified petitioner was doing very well in her treatment.

Petitioner testified she began substance abuse treatment after J. was born and said she was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings every day.   She said she had 80 days of sobriety, completed the first of the 12 steps and had a sponsor.   She acknowledged dropping out of drug dependency court but said her attitude was different this time.   She was more focused on recovery than she was before.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the juvenile court found reunification services would not serve J.'s best interest and denied petitioner reunification services as recommended by the agency.   The court also set a section 366.26 hearing.   This petition ensued.

DISCUSSION

Petitioner contends she demonstrated she made reasonable efforts.   Therefore, the juvenile court erred in denying her reunification services.   We disagree.

The juvenile court denied petitioner reunification services pursuant to section 361.5, subdivision (b)(10) and (13).   Only subdivision (b)(10) (subdivision (b)(10)) contains a provision regarding reasonable efforts.   It authorizes the denial of reunification services where the court terminated reunification services for the child's sibling because the parent failed to reunify with the sibling and did not subsequently make a reasonable effort to treat the problem necessitating the sibling's removal.

In this case, the juvenile court denied petitioner reunification services as to J. under subdivision (b)(10) because she failed to treat the drug abuse that required Z.'s removal and prevented her from reunifying with Z. The fact that petitioner entered treatment after J. was detained does equate to subsequent reasonable efforts under the statute.   Rather, the statute intends the parent make those efforts prior to the removal of another child.

Further, subdivision (c) of section 361.5 precludes an order for reunification services when the court finds subdivision (b)(10) applicable, unless the court finds reunification would serve the child's best interest.   Here, the juvenile court decided reunification would not serve J.'s best interest given petitioner's longstanding drug abuse and failure to reunify.   On the facts of this case, we find no abuse of discretion in the court's decision.

Finally, petitioner does not challenge the juvenile court's denial of reunification services under section 361.5, subdivision (b)(13) (subdivision (b)(13)).   Even if she did, we would affirm it.   Subdivision (b)(13), as relevant to petitioner, addresses the parent who has a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of drugs and resisted prior court-ordered treatment for this problem during a three-year period immediately prior to the filing of the petition that brought the child to the court's attention.   Petitioner's history of drug abuse was undisputed as were her discontinuation of dependency drug court in September 2009 and the filing of the instant petition in May 2010.   Therefore, substantial evidence also supports the court's denial of services under subdivision (b)(13).

DISPOSITION

The petition for extraordinary writ is denied.   This opinion is final forthwith as to this court.

FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE.  

FN1. All further statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code unless otherwise indicated..  FN1. All further statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code unless otherwise indicated.