According to a detention report filed by the Contra Costa County Children
and family Services Bureau (Bureau) 12-year-old Brother (B) and 11-year-old
Sister (S) lived with their mother (M) in their family home. M was abusive
to B and S, but especially to B. On October 31, 2014, M caused B serious
harm when she bit and scratched him and threatened to send him to military
school for not attending his classes. She also pinned him to the floor
and bit him on the right cheek – causing a large bruise.
According to the Bureau, this was not the first time M battered her children.
She had an untreated mental condition, and was thought to be bipolar and
suffering from depression. She would lock herself in her room for days
at a time, and leave the children to fend for themselves. When not in
her room, she often emotionally berated them or physically abused them.
M’s family members and friends worried for the children’s
safety because of M’s mental state, and had contacted Social Services
numerous times to protect the children.
The Bureau assumed temporary custody of B and S, and put them in foster
care, recommending reunification services for the family. M was given
a plan of reunification where she was to receive medical help and therapy
for her mental problems, anger management classes and parenting classes.
The children were to receive therapy to help them reunify with M. M was
granted monitored visitation of the children of one hour per week - if
the children wished to see her. Initially both children refused to see M.
At the six-month reunification hearing, Bureau informed the juvenile court
judge that M had been following most of the reunification plan. She was
attending her parenting classes, but had not signed up for anger management
classes. She was receiving medication and psycho-therapy, and passing
her drug tests. However, neither B nor S wanted to visit with her.
At the 12-month reunification hearing, Bureau informed the juvenile court
judge that M still had not attended anger management classes, and she
was missing some of her therapy appointments. Bureau also noted that B
would not communicate with M and S only saw M once when her foster mother
At the 18-month reunification hearing, Bureau informed the juvenile court
judge that M missed many of her anger management classes, B still did
not want to see M, and now S did not want to see M either. Also noted
was M’s failure to pass all of her drug screenings.
With no further reunification help available by law, the juvenile court
judge had no option but to end reunification services and terminated M’s
parental rights. M appealed the decision.
The Appellate Court upheld the juvenile court. Under the California Welfare
and Institutions Code, a court will return a child to the physical custody
of his or her parent, unless the court finds it is more likely that the
return of the child to his or her parent would create a substantial risk
of detriment to the safety, protection, or physical or emotional well-being
of the child. If so, a court can order reunification services with the
intention of reuniting the family. Eighteen months is the maximum time
for most reunification services, so the juvenile court had no choice but
to terminate M’s reunification services.