Cocaine Use Does Not Belong in the Family Home

In March of 2017, Mother [M] went to her doctor’s office and requested help for cocaine addiction. The doctor contacted the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS] to get her help.

M is the mother of two adult children and one minor child, a daughter [D]. D was 13 years old when M asked for help. They all resided in the same house with M’s aunt [B].

DCFS sent a social worker to investigate M’s drug problem and whether D was in any danger because of it. If D were, DCFS would remove her from the home. M told the social worker that she used prescription drugs for constant sciatic pain and for her hypertensive peristalsis, a condition that causes the esophagus to contract and made M feel “like she was having a heart attack every single day.” M said that she started using crack cocaine to help her get through her day at the suggestion of her friend. M also stated that she did no use cocaine at home, but only at the friend’s house. The social worker asked M to take a drug test, but M refused stating she was clean now, and that she’d already told the social worker what she was using.

The social worker’s investigation showed no evidence of drug use in the home, and that home was clean and safe. All other family members did not realize M had a drug problem, and that M was a wonderful mother. D was doing well in school and had never seen M use drugs. However, the criminal background investigation of M showed that she had numerous drug and misdemeanor assault charges and convictions in the past 20 years; including a DUI conviction as recently as a year before the investigation.

The social worker gave M names of drug treatment centers for her to get help, and M said she would provide the social worker with a drug test in a few days. However, when the social worker followed up, M refused to take the test and she also refused to go to a treatment center.

Based on the social worker’s investigation, DCFS filed a petition in the court to make D a ward of the court because M’s drug abuse was putting D in danger. The court agreed to allow D to remain in the home, but M must submit to drug testing and enroll in a drug treatment program.

Sadly, M did not comply with the court’s orders, and she tested positive for cocaine within a month. This time, DCFS went back into court and requested a full pendency petition of D. M argued there is “absolutely no evidence, whatsoever, to indicate that this child has or will ever be at risk of any abuse or neglect.” Also, M contended there was nothing in the record to suggest that D was being neglected or abused in any way. The court agreed with DCFS, and M appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court.

Section 300, subdivision (b)(1), of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code authorizes a juvenile court to exercise dependency jurisdiction over a child if the “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 his or her parent . . . to adequately supervise or protect the child, or . . . by the inability of the parent . . . to provide regular care for the child due to the parent’s . . . mental illness, developmental disability, or substance abuse.”

There was plenty of evidence to prove that M has a substance abuse problem, and D needed protection from the risk of serious harm.

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