Lui’s Opinion Says Placement in Secluded Housing Was of the Father’s Own Doing;
Juvenile Court Properly Denied Second Six-Month Period of Reunification Services
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A father who did not participate in reunification services with his baby was properly denied a second six-month period of such services, the Court of Appeal declared yesterday, rejecting the man’s excise that he was precluded from participation by virtue of being isolated while in jail as a disciplinary measure.
That isolation, Presiding Justice Elwood Lui of Div. Two said in an unpublished opinion, was of the father’s own doing. He also noted that the father, denominated “Nicholas C.,” had not responded to communications from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”).
The opinion, which was not certified for publication, affirms a judgment by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tamara E. Hall.
The child, “N.C.,” was born in 2019. Nicholas C., who was taken into custody in January 2020 on a murder charge, is the presumed father.
Children in Jeopardy
Authorities removed N.C. and a sibling, born in 2018, from the mother’s custody after she was found in a vehicle with the babies. She was not breathing, apparently due to a drug overdose, but was revived.
The Juvenile Court on July 16, 2020, sustained a dependency petition as to N.C., granting the father reunification services. However, Nicholas C. had been placed in a disciplinary housing unit in July 2020.
At a hearing on Feb. 23, 2021—with Nicholas C. not present, and his appearance waived by his attorney—Hall, found that DCFS “has complied with the case plan by providing or offering or making reasonable and/or active efforts to provide or offer reasonable services to enable the child’s safe return home and to complete and finalize the permanent placement of the child,” noted that there had been no participation by the father, and terminated his reunification services.
In his opinion affirming the judgment, Lui said:
“[A]lthough the COVID-19 pandemic limited the availability of some services and in-person visitation, the primary obstacle to Father’s participation in services and to DCFS’s ability to visit or communicate with him during the reunification period appears to be his own behavior while incarcerated. Specifically, the same month that services were ordered, July 2020, Father was placed into disciplinary housing that prevented him from participating in any groups, even though his facility thereafter was permitting small groups of eight inmates to meet….
“Father also complains that DCFS provided him no communication with N.C. However, the juvenile court’s order permitted Father weekly phone calls only ‘if consistent with the rules of the facility he is in.’ Officer Blue confirmed that inmates were ordinarily permitted to have in-person visits and make collect telephone calls, but that due to Father’s disciplinary sanction he was unable to use his privileges. Again, Father’s own actions precluded him from phone contact with N.C., not any failure by DCFS to provide such opportunity.”
The jurist added:
“We conclude the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the juvenile court’s ruling, provides substantial support for the court’s finding that DCFS offered or provided reasonable services to Father under the circumstances, and that the court did not err in terminating services. Given his behavioral restrictions during the reunification period and complete lack of engagement with any court-ordered services either before or during his incarceration and the COVID-19 pandemic, Father’s complaints that DCFS should have done more do not persuade us otherwise. DCFS is not obligated to provide the best services possible in an ideal world, but only those that are reasonable under all the circumstances.”
The case is Department of Children and Family Services v. Nicholas C., B310951.
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