Monday, September 17, 2007
C.A. Finds That DCFS Failed to Provide Sufficient Services
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal on Friday held that the Los Angeles County Department of Children And Family Services failed to provide adequate reunification services to a mother and daughter, granting a petition for extraordinary relief and ordering the department to try again.
Los Angeles Juvenile Court Referee Jacqueline Lewis will be required to take off calendar a hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code §366.21(e) to come up with a permanent plan for the daughter, designated as Jasmina M.
The opinion, by Acting Justice Frank Jackson, on assignment to this district’s Div. One from the Los Angeles Superior Court, is not certified for publication.
At a jurisdictional hearing on Oct. 19, 2006, the mother, Samantha M. admitted the allegations of a petition under Welfare & Institutions Code §300 to have Jasmina declared a dependent child. At the time of her birth she had tested positive for cocaine, as did the mother.
Lewis ordered reunification services over the department’s protest. The DCFS relied on Welfare & Institutions Code §361.5, subdivision (b)(12), which says that such services are not necessary where one parent has been “convicted of a violent felony.”
Jackson observed in a footnote:
“DCFS reported that a substance abuse evaluation revealed that Samantha, at the age of 11, killed her father with a ‘butcher knife’ after being ‘sodomized, stabbed, and beat.’ Samantha denied killing her father. She admitted stating so on the Montel Williams show but claimed the story was scripted into the show.
“In any event, there is nothing in the record establishing that Samantha has a juvenile adjudication for killing her father or that a killing actually occurred. Moreover, ‘[a]n order adjudging a minor to be a ward of the juvenile court shall not be deemed a conviction of a crime for any purpose, nor shall a proceeding in the juvenile court be deemed a criminal proceeding.’ (§ 203.)”
The DCFS later sought termination of the services Lewis on the ground that they weren’t doing any good. After hearings on May 15 and 16, Lewis agreed.
“This has been a rollercoaster case from the time it came in with mother’s indications way back on the Montel Williams show that she killed her father; the fact that she had been incarcerated for many, many years in CYA; we don’t know why her stories don’t add up,” the jurist said in her order.
Jackson said the DCFS did not make sufficient efforts to bring about a reunification. He wrote:
“DCFS knew very early on that Samantha had serious mental health issues. Yet, despite the juvenile court’s order on October 19, 2006 (at the adjudication hearing) to provide Samantha with referrals for a psychiatric evaluation, DCFS did not comply with this directive for more than five months. It was not until March 29, 2007 (after the court reiterated its order at the disposition hearing held on March 19, 2007 and only slightly more than two weeks prior to the April 9, 2007 hearing, the initial date set for the six-month review hearing) that DCFS provided her with the referrals for a psychiatric evaluation. In light of DCFS’s dilatory efforts, we conclude that substantial evidence does not support the court’s finding that reasonable reunification services had been provided by DCFS and that writ relief is warranted.
“We are also troubled by the absence of evidence of efforts by DCFS to follow the specific recommendations made by Dr. [Michael] Ward in his [psychological] evaluation. As we will be ordering reinstitution of the reunification services, DCFS should do so promptly so as to ensure that Samantha has a chance to reunify with her daughter.”
The case is Samantha M. v. Superior Court, B199321.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company