In 2014, Father [F] and Mother [M] were married and the parents of two minor children, a son [S] (age 13) and a daughter [D] (age 10) and two adult children, an adult son [AS] and an adult daughter [AD].
In 2009, upon an investigation of the Los Angeles County Department of Family Services [DCFS], the minor children were removed from the home because M tested positive for methamphetamine [meth]. She was removed from the family home and failed to comply with DCFS’s orders that she get help with her drug problem. The children remained with F and AD who took care of the children while F worked.
Four years later, F allowed M to move back into the home even though she still had a drug problem. In fact, her drug problem, according to F, was the reason he increased his use of meth, from “occasional user” to four times per day.
In 2014, DCFS investigated them for drug use based on anonymous phone calls.
Both F and M believed they did not have drug problems. M told DCFS she used meth to lose weight and could stop at any time (even though she never did). F told DCFS he took meth to ease his back pain – and was only using it four times a day. The parents also told DCFS, “We thought we were doing good because we were not smoking it or shooting up like [others] but we now realize that it is time to stop, we are too old for this, we are hitting our 50’s, we could have been healthier.”
According to DCFS, “[m]ethamphetamine is an inherently dangerous drug known to cause visual and auditory hallucinations, sleep deprivation, intense anger, volatile mood swings, agitation, paranoia, impulsivity, and depression. As such, a person under the influence of this drug cannot be trusted to safely and appropriately care for a child.”
Because of their past drug use, current drug use and the potential availability of the drug to the minor children, the juvenile court removed the children from the family home and placed them in the care of AD (who now had her own home).
F challenges the juvenile court’s ruling, contending he and M did not abuse drugs and their use of meth was not linked to a risk of harm to the children.
The Appellate Court agreed with the juvenile court stating, “the juvenile court is not required to wait until a child is seriously abused or injured to assume jurisdiction and take steps necessary to protect the child.” S and D had access to their parents’ drugs, even if they were unaware of the drugs’ availability. F kept his drugs in his wallet – which was available to the children while he was at home. M did not work and would sleep during the day leaving the children unsupervised and providing access to her drugs.
The Court further stated: “Substantial evidence supports the juvenile court’s finding that it was necessary to remove the children from Mother’s and Father’s custody to protect them from a substantial danger to their physical health, safety, or protection. In addition to the evidence supporting the jurisdictional finding of risk of harm, discussed extensively above, neither Mother nor Father had begun a treatment program at the time of the disposition hearing. Moreover, Mother had previously failed to comply with the court’s orders and Father had allowed Mother to return home knowing she had not addressed her drug problems. Thus, the danger to the children was ongoing until Father and Mother fulfilled the court’s reunification orders.”