Wednesday, July 30, 2014
C.A. Rejects Drug-Abusing Mother’s Bid to Block Adoption
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a decision to terminate the parental rights of a drug-abusing mentally ill San Diego County woman, saying she failed to prove that her relationship with twin sons was so beneficial to them as to justify depriving them of the stability adoption would provide.
In an unpublished opinion by Justice Alex McDonald, Div. One said there was substantial evidence to support the trial court’s conclusion that the beneficial-relationship exception to the policy favoring adoption was inapplicable.
The juvenile court took jurisdiction over the twins, born in 2007, in 2011, after the mother, identified only as Jenny R., jumped out of her slowly moving car, hallucinating that people were attacking her. Evidence showed that she had been using methamphetamine since she was 16 years old, including during the period that she was pregnant, and continued to relapse.
She told social workers she was “a better parent” when she was using the drug. In 2013, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety and placed on medication.
In its assessment report, the San Diego County Human Services Agency recommended termination of parental rights and selection of adoption as the preferred permanent plan. The report by the agency said both children, B.R. and M.R., were adoptable, were healthy, and were well behaved.
The agency identified their paternal aunt and her husband as the prospective adoptive parents.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Carol Isakson found by clear and convincing evidence that B.R. and M.R. were adoptable and none of the statutory exceptions to adoption were applicable. The beneficial-interest exception was inapplicable, the judge found, because the visitation between the mother and children was not “regular,” the judge found.
“Although the mother has had visitation throughout the course of the case, it has been fraught with interruptions and with relapses,” she said. The judge terminated parental rights and found adoption to be in the children’s best interests.
Justice Alex McDonald, writing for the Court of Appeal, said adoption is the Legislature’s preferred permanent plan. “[O]nce the court determines the child is likely to be adopted, the burden shifts to the parent to show that termination of parental rights would be detrimental to the child under one of the exceptions listed in Welf. & Inst. Code §366.26(c)(1),” the justice explained.
While the mother asserted that during their visits with her, the children were happy to see her, leaned against her and voiced wishes to sleep over at “my mom’s house” and to “go and live with my mom,” the justice found, there was substantial evidence to support Isakson’s findings that, at the time of hearing, the parent-child bond had “eroded” as the children had not “lived” with their mother for the last two years.
McDonald concluded that because Jenny R. struggled with sobriety and could not have contact with the children, the children were appropriately placed in an adoptive home and parental rights were properly terminated. The justice explained in a footnote that the parental rights of the biological father had also been terminated and were not at issue on appeal.
The case is In re B.R., D065457.
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