KAITLYN v. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES

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Court of Appeal, Second District, California.

KAITLYN G., Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, Respondent. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Real Party in Interest.

B232909

Decided: August 23, 2011

Writ petition to review order setting hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26.   David R. Fields, Judge.   Petition denied.   Law Offices of Katherine Anderson, Victoria Doherty and Martin Lee for Petitioner. No appearance for Respondent. Andrea Sheridan Ordin, County Counsel, James M. Owens, Assistant County Counsel, Aileen Wong, Deputy County Counsel for Real Party in Interest Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS

Petitioner Kaitlyn G. seeks extraordinary relief from the juvenile court's order setting a hearing to consider termination of parental rights and implementation of a permanent plan for her 16–month–old son Anthony G. We deny the petition.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In January 2010 the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family

Services (Department) received a referral from a hospital alleging that one-day-old Anthony G. was at risk of general neglect and parental incapacity by Kaitlyn G., who was sixteen years old.   The referral stated Kaitlyn G. had told the hospital staff that she had a long history of methamphetamine abuse.   The report also stated that Kaitlyn G. was not feeding Anthony G. unless she was prompted by a nurse and was unable to comprehend what the nurses were telling her, indicating Kaitlyn G. might be suffering from a mental disability.   A social worker went to the hospital and interviewed Kaitlyn G., who stated that she had used methamphetamine and marijuana since she was 14 but stopped using drugs six or seven months before giving birth to Anthony G. Kaitlyn G. also told the social worker that she lived with her mother (Patricia G.) but had been removed from Patricia G.'s custody when she was five or seven years old due to Patricia G.'s drug and alcohol abuse, and was reunited with Patricia G. after spending several months in foster care.   When the social worker asked Kaitlyn G. about her plans for Anthony G., Kaitlyn G. shrugged her shoulders.

The social worker interviewed Patricia G. at her home.   Patricia G., who had not been to the hospital, admitted she had a long history with the Department as a result of using drugs, but she denied current use of drugs or alcohol.   Patricia G. further stated she suspected that Kaitlyn G. may have used drugs, based on her behavior which included disobedience, manipulation and running away.

The social worker searched the Department's records and learned that Kaitlyn G. had received family services on several occasions from the time of her birth until 2001 for Patricia G.'s drug use, drug-related criminal convictions, and an unsafe home.

On January 13, 2010 the Department filed a petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 1 to declare Anthony G. a court dependent.   The court ordered Anthony G. detained in shelter care with discretion for the Department to release him to any appropriate relative;  ordered the Department to refer Kaitlyn G. to weekly drug testing, teen parenting and individual counseling;  granted Kaitlyn G. monitored visits with Anthony G.;   ordered the Department to prepare a pre-release investigation report (PRI) regarding the possible placement of Anthony G. in Patricia G.'s home, with Kaitlyn G. residing in the home;  and scheduled the adjudication hearing for March 8, 2010.

In its PRI submitted on January 22, 2010, the Department reported that Kaitlyn G. was living in a converted closet in Patricia G.'s home.   Patricia G. had an extensive criminal history including several convictions for drug offenses, was currently unemployed, and her savings were depleted.   Patricia G. told the social worker that Kaitlyn G. refused to go to school, stole money from Patricia G., and that Kaitlyn G.'s behavior indicated she was using drugs.   The Department concluded that Patricia G. would be unable to provide a proper home for Anthony G.

In its report for the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, the Department indicated Kaitlyn G. told the social worker that she began using methamphetamine when she turned 15, and used it daily until she was two months pregnant.   Kaitlyn G. had requested to visit Anthony G., but she missed her first visit and was told further visits would be subject to her telephone confirmation 24 hours before the visit.   Kaitlyn G. failed to call 24 hours in advance of the next scheduled visit, and the visit was cancelled.   Kaitlyn G. visited Anthony G. once on February 1, 2010.   On January 29, 2010 the social worker met with Kaitlyn G., discussed drug testing, and provided her with identification for testing and bus passes for transportation.

On March 8, 2010 Kaitlyn G. submitted on an amended section 300 petition on the basis of the Department's reports.  (In re Malinda S. (1990) 51 Cal.3d 368.)   As sustained by the court, the petition alleged Kaitlyn G. had a three-year history of substance abuse and used drugs at the beginning of her pregnancy with Anthony G., endangering his physical and emotional safety and placing him at risk of emotional harm.   The court continued the case to March 29, 2010 for the disposition hearing.

In two separate reports for the disposition hearing the Department indicated that Kaitlyn G. tested negative for drugs three times, and the result of a fourth test on February 19, 2010 was diluted and the test was invalid.   Kaitlyn G. did not appear for a follow-up test.   On February 21, 2010 Kaitlyn G. had a monitored visit with Anthony G. and the foster parents reported that Kaitlyn G. was very pale, overly talkative and repetitive in her speech, indicating she may have been under the influence of drugs.

On March 7, 2010 the social worker left messages at six separate inpatient programs to obtain a placement for Kaitlyn G. The social worker later learned that none of the facilities had a suitable program currently available for Kaitlyn G. A seventh facility explained that, because Kaitlyn G. was a minor, Patricia G. would have to seek Kaitlyn G.'s placement in the program and Anthony G. would not be able to reside with Kaitlyn G.

At the disposition hearing held on March 29, 2010, the juvenile court ordered the Department to provide reunification services for Kaitlyn G., and ordered Kaitlyn G. to participate in a drug rehabilitation program with random drug testing, and in parenting education.   The court granted Kaitlyn G. monitored visitation with Anthony G. three times a week and continued the matter to September 27, 2010 for the six-month review hearing. (§ 366.21, subd. (e).)

On April 6, 2010 the Department prepared a supplemental report containing the findings of a Multi–Disciplinary Assessment Team (MAT).   The MAT determined Anthony G. was meeting all the normal physical, social and emotional developmental milestones in his foster home.   Kaitlyn G. had received referrals for drug rehabilitation, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and dyadic therapy 2 with Anthony G.

At a progress hearing held on August 24, 2010 the juvenile court ordered the Department to investigate placement of Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. in a residential treatment program at St. Anne's Group Home.3 The court also ordered the Department to arrange for Kaitlyn G. to attend “Mommy and Me” classes.

In its report for the six-month review hearing the Department stated that Kaitlyn G. had twice tested negative for drugs and missed a third scheduled test.   Kaitlyn G. had completed an eight-session parenting program, attended group and individual alcohol and drug counseling sessions, and in July of 2010 had completed a three-month inpatient rehabilitation program at the Tarzana Medical Treatment Center.   Kaitlyn G. could not be discharged from the Tarzana facility however, because Patricia G. was incarcerated.   Kaitlyn G. was discharged on August 5, 2010, detained from Patricia G., made a court dependent, and on September 1, 2010 placed in St. Anne's Group Home.

Kaitlyn G. was inconsistent in visiting Anthony G. between January and April of 2010, but visited with him regularly while she was in the Tarzana inpatient facility.   After she was discharged from the facility Kaitlyn G. had several visits with Anthony G. At the first visit on August 7, 2010, Kaitlyn G. had difficulty soothing Anthony G. when he got fussy.   During a visit on August 21, 2010 Kaitlyn G. became frustrated, asked when the visit would be over, and asked for a change of date for her next visit because she wanted to go jet skiing.   When Kaitlyn G. again visited Anthony G. on September 10, 2010 at St. Anne's, she had two piercings on her face.   The piercings were infected and Kaitlyn G. stated that she had performed the piercings herself.   During the visit, Kaitlyn G. had difficulty soothing Anthony G., required assistance in feeding him, and was unable to read the baby's cues.   During a visit on September 12, 2010, three girls arrived and disturbed the visit by speaking inappropriately about the case and asking Kaitlyn G. if she smelled the “weed” smell, which provoked laughter by Kaitlyn G. Kaitlyn G. cancelled a visit on September 13, 2010, stating that she had been getting too much sun, eating too much candy and sleeping too long.   During visits on September 25, 2010 and September 26, 2010 Kaitlyn G. expressed reluctance in having Anthony G. visit at St. Anne's, because some children had been hit or bit and because of the foul language, fights and attitudes at the facility.

The Department further reported that the foster parents wished to adopt Anthony G. The Department opined that, although Kaitlyn G. had thus far demonstrated inability to take on the responsibility of caring for Anthony G., reunification services should be extended for an additional six months.

On September 27, 2010 the court set a hearing for November 5, 2010 on a request filed by Anthony G.'s foster parents seeking de facto parent status, ordered the Department to refer Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. for dyadic therapy as suggested by a psychologist who had conducted an assessment of Anthony G., and continued the

six-month review hearing to November 5, 2010 for a contested hearing.

On October 27, 2010 the Department submitted a Delivered Services Log for the period from January 8, 2010 through September 30, 2010.   The Department reported that as of the end of July the social worker had been unsuccessful in locating a foster home for Kaitlyn G. When she was released from the Tarzana facility on August 5, 2010, Kaitlyn G. was placed in a foster home in Palmdale.   Several days later the foster mother reported that, at 11 p.m. on August 10, 2010, Kaitlyn G. and two other girls had sneaked out through the roof of the two-story house, at great danger to their safety and breaking the roof.   The foster mother followed the girls to a nearby home, knocked at the door, and several boys who appeared to be older than 18 told her the girls had approached the boys for drugs.

On September 29, 2010, after Kaitlyn G. had been placed at St. Anne's Group Home, the social worker informed Anthony G.'s therapist that the court had ordered dyadic therapy for Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. as the therapist had suggested.   The therapist stated that her agency did not provide such therapy on weekends.   Because Kaitlyn G. was not available on weekdays, the social worker contacted Kaitlyn G.'s case manager at St. Anne's to inquire whether dyadic therapy could be provided there.   The case manager explained that visitation hours at St. Anne's on weekdays were only from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., which was too late for Anthony G. to visit.

On November 5, 2010 the court continued to November 18, 2010 the contested six-month review hearing and the hearing on the request by Anthony G.'s foster parents for de facto parent status.   On November 18, 2010 the juvenile court granted the de facto parent request.   The court found that Kaitlyn G. was in substantial compliance with her case plan, the Department had provided reasonable reunification services, and Anthony G.'s return to Kaitlyn G.'s custody would create a substantial risk of detriment to his well-being.   The court granted Kaitlyn G. monitored visits with Anthony G., ordered the Department to refer Kaitlyn G. to dyadic therapy, “Mommy and Me” classes and weekly drug testing, and continued the case to March 8, 2011 for the 12–month review hearing. (§ 366.21, subd. (f).)

In its report for the 12–month review hearing the Department indicated Kaitlyn G. tested negative for drugs seven times and was enrolled in individual counseling and in parenting classes.   The facilitator of the parenting classes, who also supervised Kaitlyn G.'s education, told the social worker that Kaitlyn G. was doing well in her classes initially but she quickly lost interest, did not appear for classes, and sometimes left the school altogether to be with her friends.   The social worker had reminded Kaitlyn G.'s case manager at St. Anne's of the request that Kaitlyn G. receive dyadic therapy, and the case manager stated she would attempt to arrange sessions.   The Department's documentation indicated that, during the period between October 5, 2010 to March 9, 2011, social workers repeatedly contacted Kaitlyn G.'s case managers at St. Anne's in efforts to arrange for dyadic therapy and “Mommy and Me” classes, but those efforts were stalled by complications arising from Kaitlyn G.'s group placement and Anthony G.'s placement in a foster home.

The Department further reported that Kaitlyn G. had made little progress in her monitored visitation with Anthony G. Kaitlyn G. did not appear for approximately half of the scheduled visits, and when she did arrive she was consistently late, sometimes for up to an hour.   During the visits Kaitlyn G. demonstrated a lack of basic parenting skills.   She engaged in very little interaction with Anthony G., had difficulty soothing Anthony G. when he cried or became fussy, did not attend to or even seem to understand his emotional needs, did not engage in verbal stimulation, and often talked or texted on her cellular telephone instead of focusing on Anthony G. During one visit Kaitlyn G. told Anthony G.'s foster parents that she wanted to get Anthony G.'s ears pierced, and at another visit she mentioned that she wanted to shave his head.   Anthony G.'s safety was endangered by Kaitlyn's G.'s inattentiveness during several visits, and one time he hurt his eye and had to be taken to the hospital.   The Department noted that Anthony G.'s foster parents wished to adopt him and requested that the court terminate reunification services for Kaitlyn G.

On March 8, 2011 the juvenile court continued the 12–month review hearing to May 2, 2011 for a contested hearing.   The court also ordered the Department to submit an updated report, addressing the efforts made to place Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. together and to enroll them in “Mommy and Me” classes.

In the updated report, submitted on April 15, 2011, the Department advised that Kaitlyn G. continued to receive individual therapy at St. Anne's;  on February 26, 2011 she began to attend weekly “Mommy and Me” classes, but she did not appear for classes scheduled for March 9, 2011 and March 23, 2011;  and on April 7, 2011 Kaitlyn G. started weekly dyadic therapy sessions.   The Department also reported that Kaitlyn G. interacted appropriately with Anthony G. at some visits, but other visits were less successful:  Kaitlyn G. was often late for visits, did not interact with Anthony G. or tend to his needs during the visits, and instead she spent time on her cellular telephone or her iPod. During one visit Kaitlyn G. complained of having to play with dirty toys at the “Mommy and Me” classes, and she stated that she would not be able to care for Anthony G. if he were returned to her custody because it was a lot of work and sleep was very important to her.

The Department reported that Kaitlyn G. ran away from St. Anne's several times in March and April of 2011, and on one occasion a “missing person” report was filed.   Kaitlyn G. also repeatedly failed to attend school, and she refused medical attention after she was diagnosed with bronchitis.   Kaitlyn G. failed to appear for the three “Mommy and Me” classes, and she was found outside the class with Anthony G. on another occasion.

The contested 12–month review hearing was conducted on May 2, 2011.   After the court admitted the Department's reports into evidence, Brenda Hanssen, the supervising social worker, was called as a witness by Kaitlyn G. and testified she was aware that dyadic therapy had been recommended by a therapist and ordered by the juvenile court for Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. Hanssen further testified that the social worker made repeated efforts to arrange for dyadic therapy at St. Anne's, but her efforts were frustrated by scheduling difficulties caused by the unavailability of a therapist at St. Anne's on weekends, unwillingness by St. Anne's staff to make Kaitlyn G. available for therapy on weekdays, resistance by St. Anne's to therapy for Anthony G. because he was not a resident of the home, and the social worker's inability to locate resources outside of St. Anne's for dyadic therapy.

Hanssen also testified that she was aware of the preference for joint placement of dependent minor parents and their children,4 and that the Department's policy is to attempt to place dependent minor parents and their children together whenever possible.   Hanssen testified that the Department made an assessment and determined placement of Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. together in a group home or in a foster home would pose a risk to Anthony G. in view of Kaitlyn G.'s drug use, her lack of stability, and her practice of running away from her placements.   Hanssen added that, after Kaitlyn G. was discharged from the Tarzana inpatient facility in August of 2010 and St. Anne's indicated Anthony G. could not be housed there with Kaitlyn G., a Team Decision Making Meeting was held to discuss whether Kaitlyn G. could be placed in the home of Anthony G.'s foster parents.   The placement could not be made however, as Kaitlyn G. stated she felt uncomfortable having another set of parents and was unwilling to live in the foster home, and because it was also determined that Kaitlyn G.'s use of drugs and her history of running away would make the placement unstable and create a risk to Anthony G.'s

well-being.

Kaitlyn G. testified that she vaguely recalled that the possibility of Anthony G. living with her at St. Anne's was discussed at a Team Decision Meeting at the time of her discharge from the Tarzana facility.   Kaitlyn G. further testified that Anthony G.'s foster father told her she could live in the foster home, but only if she agreed to let the foster parents adopt her.

At the conclusion of testimony counsel for the Department requested that the court terminate reunification services for Kaitlyn G. Counsel for Anthony G. acknowledged that Kaitlyn G.'s behavior had been irresponsible and that she “has a lot of issues of her own,” but requested that Kaitlyn G. receive an additional six months of reunification services in view of the Department's delay in enrolling her in “Mommy and Me” classes and dyadic therapy.   In the alternative, counsel requested the matter be continued for further investigation of the possibility of placing Kaitlyn G. with Anthony G. in his foster home.

Counsel for Kaitlyn G. argued that Kaitlyn G. was entitled to additional reunification services, because the Department unreasonably delayed in providing Kaitlyn G. with “Mommy and Me” classes and dyadic therapy and failed to place Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. together.   Counsel further requested that Kaitlyn G. be placed with Anthony G. in his foster home during the additional reunification period.

After hearing argument, the court announced its decision to terminate reunification services.   The court summarized the history of the case and observed that Kaitlyn G.'s disinterest in school, her pattern of running away from her placements, her failure to interact with Anthony G. during visits, and her pronouncements that she could not care for Anthony G. because sleep was too important to her, reflected a marked lack of effort, motivation, and willingness to accept responsibility for caring for a child.   The court noted that the Department had provided Kaitlyn G. with services from the commencement of the case and made various attempts to enroll her in dyadic therapy, and further determined it was unlikely that earlier enrollment in dyadic therapy would have been the “be-all-end-all to right the situation.”   The court further observed that the Department investigated placement of Kaitlyn G. with Anthony G. together, and explained that the Department properly determined that Kaitlyn G.'s behavior would make the placement unstable and would create a risk to Anthony G. The court noted that only two-and-a-half months remained before the case reached the 18–month statutory limit for reunification, and found there was not a substantial probability that Anthony G. could be returned to Kaitlyn G.'s custody by the 18–month date.   The court proceeded to set the matter for a hearing pursuant to section 366.26.

CONTENTION

Kaitlyn G. contends the juvenile court improperly terminated reunification because there was not substantial evidence to support the court's finding the Department provided reasonable reunification services.   Specifically, Kaitlyn G. argues that the delay in enrolling her in “Mommy and Me” classes and dyadic therapy, together with the Department's failure to locate a placement for Kaitlyn G. together with Anthony G., made the services deficient.

DISCUSSION

We review the juvenile court's finding that reasonable reunification services were offered under the substantial evidence standard.  (In re Shelley J. (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 322, 329.) 5  We recognize that in most cases more services might have been provided, and the services that were provided can often be imperfect.   The standard, however, is whether the services provided were reasonable under the circumstances.  (In re Misako R. (1991) 2 Cal.App.4th 538, 547.)

Substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's finding the services offered to Kaitlyn G. were reasonable under the circumstances of her case.   (In re Christina L. (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 404, 416–417;  In re Jasmon O. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 398, 424–425.)   The record, as summarized above, establishes that the Department's social workers immediately identified the problems that led to the loss of custody, promptly provided Kaitlyn G. with referrals for various services, supervised her monitored visitation with Anthony G., arranged for her placement in an inpatient rehabilitation program and later in a group home, and worked with staff in the group home to facilitate counseling and parenting classes.   The record indicates the social workers were diligent in attempting to facilitate dyadic therapy and “Mommy and Me” classes, but their efforts were frustrated for reasons beyond the social workers' control.   The record further shows that, when “Mommy and Me” classes were initiated, Kaitlyn G.'s attendance was spotty and she voiced complaints about the classes during her visitation with Anthony G. Kaitlyn G. was thus offered ample time and various services to reunify, but failed at reunification because she was indifferent to, or unwilling to take advantage of, the services offered to her and lacked interest in assuming care of Anthony G.

Nor did the Department's decision not to place Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. together render its services deficient.   Section 16002.5 declares the Legislature's preference for joint placement of a minor parent and her child “unless ․ placement together poses a risk to the child.”   The record in this case contains ample evidence that placement of Anthony G. together with Kaitlyn G. posed a risk to Anthony G. Kaitlyn G. sneaked out of a foster placement through the roof of the two-story house, endangering her safety, to obtain drugs from several boys.   She repeatedly ran away from her group home placement to spend time with her friends.   She was easily frustrated during visits with Anthony G., and endangered his safety several times.   Under these circumstances the Department properly determined Kaitlyn G. and Anthony G. should not be placed together.

DISPOSITION

Because substantial evidence supports the juvenile court's order to conduct a hearing pursuant to section 366.26, the petition is denied on the merits.

We concur:

FOOTNOTES

FN1. Statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code..  FN1. Statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code.

FN2. Although the parties do not define the term dyadic therapy, we understand it to refer to therapy for babies and toddlers and their mothers for the purpose of mending and strengthening the parent-child bond and to rebuild a healthy and secure attachment and relationship..  FN2. Although the parties do not define the term dyadic therapy, we understand it to refer to therapy for babies and toddlers and their mothers for the purpose of mending and strengthening the parent-child bond and to rebuild a healthy and secure attachment and relationship.

FN3. On August 10, 2010 the juvenile court had detained Kaitlyn G. from Patricia G. in Kaitlyn G.'s dependency case.   At the August 24, 2010 progress hearing, the court was in possession of a pre-trial release investigation report submitted by the Department in Kaitlyn G.'s case..  FN3. On August 10, 2010 the juvenile court had detained Kaitlyn G. from Patricia G. in Kaitlyn G.'s dependency case.   At the August 24, 2010 progress hearing, the court was in possession of a pre-trial release investigation report submitted by the Department in Kaitlyn G.'s case.

FN4. Section 16002.5 declares a legislative intent “to maintain the continuity of the family unit and to support and preserve families headed by minor parents who are themselves dependents of the juvenile court by ensuring that minor parents and their children are placed together in as family-like a setting as possible, unless it has been determined that placement together poses a risk to the child.”.  FN4. Section 16002.5 declares a legislative intent “to maintain the continuity of the family unit and to support and preserve families headed by minor parents who are themselves dependents of the juvenile court by ensuring that minor parents and their children are placed together in as family-like a setting as possible, unless it has been determined that placement together poses a risk to the child.”

FN5. When we review the juvenile court's findings under the substantial evidence standard, we inquire only whether there is any evidence, contradicted or uncontradicted, that supports the court's determination.   We resolve all conflicts in support of the determination, indulge in all legitimate inferences to uphold the findings and may not substitute our deductions for those of the juvenile court.  (In re Katrina C. (1988) 201 Cal.App.3d 540;  In re John V. (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 1201, 1212.).  FN5. When we review the juvenile court's findings under the substantial evidence standard, we inquire only whether there is any evidence, contradicted or uncontradicted, that supports the court's determination.   We resolve all conflicts in support of the determination, indulge in all legitimate inferences to uphold the findings and may not substitute our deductions for those of the juvenile court.  (In re Katrina C. (1988) 201 Cal.App.3d 540;  In re John V. (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 1201, 1212.)

WOODS, Acting P. J. JACKSON, J.