Parental Rights and Incorrigible Children

In El Salvador, F married his first wife and had a daughter [D]. They divorced, and F moved to the United States. He remarried and had four children with his current wife S.

When D was 11 years old, she moved to the United States to live with F and S. F wanted D to have a better life in America.

Sadly, D could not adjust to life in America. She fought constantly with S, and refused to obey any authority. She would not dress modestly, do chores, or care for her personal hygiene. She would not eat with other family members, and refused to allow S to drive her to school when S drove the other children to school.

In October of 2015 (when D was 13 years old), the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a referral of child endangerment regarding F and S. During the investigation, D told DCFS that S refused to feed her and made her walk to school while S drove the other children. D also to DCFS that S beat her, and that she had been raped by her brother in El Salvador. Further investigation by DCFS revealed that neither F nor S had abused D; and all who knew D said she was a voracious liar. DCFS closed its investigation

Two months later, D took a knife to her neighbor’s house and asked for help, stating that she wanted to kill herself. The neighbor contacted the police, D was hospitalized, and DCFS re-opened its investigation.

During the time of the second investigation, D was released from the hospital, but went to the same neighbor’s house complaining that she wasn’t welcome at home and wanted to cut her wrists. The neighbor contacted the police, and D was hospitalized again, and later placed in foster care.

During foster care, F had monitored visits with D. D later recanted to DCFS that she had been raped or abused by F or S, but she still threatened to cut herself if she were returned to F’s home.

DCFS concluded its report and filed a petition in juvenile court to remove D from F’s care permanently stating that D was at high risk of harm because of F’s lack of control of D. The juvenile court agreed with DCFS stating: “[The]…inability to provide appropriate parental care and supervision of the child by the [F] endanger [s] the child’s physical health and safety and place [s] the child at risk of physical harm, damage, and danger.” The juvenile court made no findings as to whether F was at fault for D’s behavior.

F appealed and the Appellate Court agreed with F stating: “… [D] was not at substantial risk of serious physical harm and, even if she had been, [F] neither did nor failed to do anything to cause that risk of harm. Because [D] was not abused, neglected, or exploited and [F] neither did nor failed to do anything to put [D] at any risk of harm, we conclude dependency jurisdiction was not proper here.”

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