Mother [M] lived in Connecticut with her husband and three children. They adopted two other children – her niece and nephew. The marriage was happy mostly due to M’s mental health problems. It got so bad that her husband sued for divorce. The divorce was granted with full custody of the children to him. Because M appeared violent, she was denied visitation with the children. Later, she moved to California, had a relationship with another man, and gave birth to a son [S]. The father was not in the picture. M lived with her mother, sister and her sister’s three children in a small family home.
Within a week of giving birth to S, a referral was made to Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS]. A social worker came out and found S to be well fed, clean and living in a clean environment. She made three more unannounced visits and continued to find S’s living conditions satisfactory and that he was bonding with S. M was very weary of leary of the DCFS. She told the social worker that her other children were removed from her care because the social workers lied to her. Later, when she was assigned a new social worker, she became even more suspicious of DCFS’s intentions to take S away from her.
During visits within the next four months of S’s life, complied with some of DCFS’s conditions to maintain custody of S, and refused to comply with others saying that it was just a ploy to remove S from her care. She attended visits with a psychiatrist, but would not allow service providers to help her with S’s care. She also would not stop breast feeding S, which she needed to do to take medication for diagnosed condition of “Psychosis vs. Schizophrenia, paranoid type.”
As time went on M became more confused and uncooperative to the point DCFS removed S from her care.
DCFS wrote in the detention report on July 12, 2016: “Mother has a history of emotional and mental health issues, and she has lost custody of her five older children to their father in Connecticut. [¶] Mother continues to suffer from mental and emotional issues, including paranoia, delusional behavior, and aggression. She is resistant to any type of treatment, including medication and counseling. Family Preservation is unable to work with her because she will not make herself available for appointments. [¶] Despite offering mother a VFM case for the past 6 months, mother has not been able and/or is unwilling to adequately address her mental and emotional issues. [¶] Mother’s conduct endangers the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child such that the child is at risk of suffering emotional or physical harm.”
The Juvenile Court removed S from M’s custody and stating: “…[M’s] conduct and demeanor gives any reasonable person pause to say, ‘Why would somebody behave in this fashion if there wasn’t a great deal of mental disability that would put a child at risk?’”
M appealed. The Appellate Court agreed with M, merely having mental illness was not sufficient cause to remove a child from its mother’s care.
The Juvenile Court may gain jurisdiction over a child if a parent has harmed a child, the child is in immediate danger of harm, or if that child is in substantial risk of harm or danger. In this case, DCFS stated that M was taking care of her child. S was in good health, and M was maintaining her medical regiment. S was not being harmed, was not in immediate danger of being harmed, and was not at substantial risk of harm or danger.