In May, of 2015, the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services
[DCFS] received a referral alleging emotional and physical abuse by Father
[F] and general neglect by Mother [M]. At the time, M was 17 years old
and [F] was 21. According to the report, M was holding their two-month
old Daughter [D] when F hit M on the forehead. M filed a restraining order
against F and ended her relationship with F. The restraining order provided
that F was to have “no personal, electronic telephonic, or written
contact with mother or child, except for court-ordered visitation and
the safe exchange of child.” DCFS closed its file.
On January 6, 2017, the police stopped a car with M and D as passengers.
M was found with 11 grams of methamphetamine and two grams of marijuana.
She told the officers that she was on her way to F’s mother’s
house to drop off D for her weekend visit with F. (F lived with his mother.)
She also told the officers that she used meth usually on weekends when
D was with F. (M had custody of D on weekdays.) M was charged with possession
of meth for sale and another referral was sent to DCFS.
DCFS’s petition alleged D was at risk of physical harm based on F’s
actions during the domestic violence incident against M in 2015, F’s
convictions for violent crimes (battery in 2013 and 2014), F’s violation
of the restraining order and mother’s history of substance abuse
and her possession of meth while in a vehicle with child.
The juvenile court found that staying with F and M would pose substantial
danger to D’s physical health, safety, and emotional well-being.
The juvenile court declared D a dependent of the court and removed her
from both parents’ custody. The court also allowed monitored visitation
by F and M and ordered DCFS to provide family reunification services.
F appealed believing that his “violent history” was old and
no longer relevant, thus making him a fit parent. The Appellate Court
agreed with F:
California Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (b) requires:
“(1) neglectful conduct by the parent in one of the specified forms;
(2) causation; and (3) ‘serious physical harm or illness to the
child, or a ‘substantial risk’ of such harm or illness. The
third element effectively requires a showing that at the time of the jurisdictional
hearing the child is at substantial risk of serious physical harm in the
future (e.g., evidence showing a substantial risk that past physical harm
will reoccur) …”
The Appellate Court stated, “…in evaluating risk based upon
a single episode of endangering conduct, a juvenile court should consider
the nature of the conduct and all surrounding circumstances. It should
also consider the present circumstances, which might include, among other
things, evidence of the parent’s current understanding of and attitude
toward the past conduct that endangered a child, or participation in educational
programs, or other steps taken, by the parent to address the problematic
conduct in the interim…”
Here F’s behavior toward M was two years old, his former violent
behavior was four years ago, and he has shown nothing but good parenting
skills toward D from 2015 to the present. Custody should remain with F.