Brother [B] (age six months) and sister [S] (age four years), lived with their unmarried mother [M] and father [F] in Los Angeles County. M was a school teacher. F was a licensed security guard, but since the birth of S, he was mostly a stay-at-home dad.
When F was a security guard, he obtained a gun permit. He maintained the permit, and he owned a nine millimeter hand gun.
Unbeknown to F, he was a subject of interest in a narcotics investigation. The investigation brought the attention of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
In September of 2015, a drug enforcement task force consisting of local and federal agencies, (with search warrant in hand), were conducting a stake out of F’s home. The officers observed F getting in his car and leaving the premises. A short time later, the officers pulled his car over and searched his vehicle. In it, they found three pounds of methamphetamine. F also told them he had a gun at his home in a plastic bag in his front closet
The officers returned to his home, searched it (with the warrant), and found the gun F had told them about. It was in the front closet, in a plastic bag, on a shelf about four feet from the floor - making it accessible to children. F was arrested for narcotics violations. DCFS was notified, and the children were placed in protective custody.
Later, DCFS returned the children were to M, after determining she knew nothing about the drugs or the gun in the closet.
A dependency hearing was conducted and the court determined F’s possession of narcotics and the location of his gun where his children could reach it, made the removal of the children from F’s custody the correct course of action by DCFS.
F appealed. The Appellate Court agreed with the juvenile court.
A juvenile court must decide where a child will live while under juvenile court supervision to support removal from parental custody. In this stage, the DCFS must prove to the court “…that there is a risk of substantial harm to the child if returned home and the lack of reasonable means short of removal to protect the child’s safety.”
F contended the evidence of a loaded handgun in his closet and the three pounds of methamphetamine the officers found in his car did not mean that the children were a risk of harm. Therefore, DCFS had no legal right to take his children away from him.
The Appellate Court determined “…The Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 circumstance that supports dependency jurisdiction relevant here is when ‘[t]he child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm or illness, as a result of the failure or inability of [the parent] to adequately supervise or protect the child.... The three elements of a jurisdictional finding under section 300, subdivision (b)(1) are: (1) neglectful conduct by the parent; (2) causation; and (3) serious physical harm or illness or a substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness. ‘”