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In re A.F. CA4/16

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In re A.F. CA4/16
By
26/08/21

Filed 4/16/21 In re A.F. CA2/4

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(a). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115(a).

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT

DIVISION FOUR

In re A.F. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.

B307042

LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES,

Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

D.F.,

Defendant and Appellant.

Los Angeles County

Super. Ct. No. 20CCJP02646

APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Brett Bianco, Judge. Affirmed.

Niti Gupta, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Rodrigo A. Castro-Silva, Acting County Counsel, Kim Nemoy, Assistant County Counsel, Kimberly Roura, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

INTRODUCTION

D.F. (mother) appeals from the juvenile court’s dispositional order requiring her to complete a full drug and alcohol program with aftercare and weekly testing. She contends the dispositional order must be reversed because: (1) it is unsupported by substantial evidence; (2) the drug program ordered is unduly burdensome; and (3) the order is not narrowly tailored to the circumstances giving rise to dependency. We disagree and affirm.

BACKGROUND

Mother has two sons, A.F.[1] and D.A., who are half-brothers. Both children’s fathers are deceased. At the time the case was initiated in 2020, both children resided with mother and her boyfriend, J.A.

In April 2020, the Department of Children and Family Services (Department) received a referral alleging A.F. was the victim of general neglect by mother and of physical abuse by J.A., and that D.A. was a sibling at risk. The referral alleged A.F. and J.A. had engaged in a physical altercation.

After an investigation, in May 2020, the Department filed a petition on behalf of the children under Welfare and Institutions Code[2] section 300, subdivisions (a), (b), and (j). The petition alleged the children were at risk of serious physical harm due to: (1) J.A.’s physical abuse of A.F. and mother’s failure to protect him from the abuse (counts a-1, b-1, and j-1); (2) mother’s history of engaging in violent altercations with J.A. in the children’s presence and allowing him to reside in their home and have unlimited access to them (counts a-2 and b-2); (3) mother’s “history of substance abuse” and marijuana use which rendered her incapable of providing regular care for the children (count b-3); and (4) mother’s creation of a “detrimental and endangering situation” by allowing J.A. to possess, use, and be under the influence of marijuana in the children’s home and in their presence (count b-4).

At the onset of the Department’s investigation, mother admitted she used marijuana for medicinal purposes, but denied smoking inside the home. A.F. was also interviewed by the Department. He reported mother and J.A. smoked marijuana in mother’s bedroom while he and D.A. were inside the home. When subsequently confronted with A.F.’s statements, mother admitted she would sometimes smoke marijuana in her bedroom when the children were at school.

At a later interview, A.F. told the Department mother had, in the past, asked him to lie and say she does not smoke marijuana. Additionally, A.F. stated mother used to smoke every day but had reduced her intake to approximately twice a week. He further stated mother “tried” to smoke outside and not in front of him or D.A. because they both have asthma.

The Department interviewed multiple family members in the course of its investigation. Maternal uncle told the Department mother smoked marijuana in the home and in front of the children. Additionally, he stated mother’s home “always” smells like marijuana. Similarly, maternal grandmother reported mother and J.A. smoked marijuana in the bathroom while both children were in the home. She also stated A.F. had asked mother to refrain from smoking in the home because both children suffered from asthma. Maternal grandfather reported that whenever he visited mother, the home “stinks of marijuana.” Likewise, paternal grandmother reported the children had told him mother and J.A. smoked marijuana inside the home. Finally, paternal aunt reported A.F. said he “hates how they both [mother and J.A.] smoke in the house.”

With respect to J.A.’s marijuana use, A.F. told the Department that he smoked both inside and outside of the home. Moreover, mother admitted she allowed J.A. to smoke in her bedroom when the children were not home. Also, J.A.’s ex-wife, with whom he shares a daughter, reported their daughter claimed she saw J.A. smoke in front of A.F. and D.A.

At the adjudication hearing, the juvenile court sustained counts a-2, b-2, and b-4 and dismissed all the other counts, including the allegation that mother’s marijuana use placed the children at substantial risk of serious harm. The juvenile court placed the children with mother under Department supervision and ordered her to participate in family maintenance services, which included a six-month full drug/alcohol program with aftercare and weekly drug testing and a domestic violence support group for victims.

Mother timely appealed.

DISCUSSION

  1. Governing Legal Principles and Standard of Review

“The [juvenile] court has broad discretion to determine what would best serve and protect the child’s interest and to fashion a dispositional order in accord with this discretion.” [Citations.]” (In re Christopher H. (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1001, 1006.) “‘On appeal, this determination cannot be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. [Citation.]’ [Citations.]” (In re Briana V. (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 297, 311.) “In reviewing an order for abuse of discretion, we ‘“must consider all the evidence, draw all reasonable inferences, and resolve all evidentiary conflicts, in a light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling. [Citation.] The precise test is whether any rational trier of fact could conclude that the trial court order advanced the best interests of the child.”’ [Citation.]” (In re Natalie A. (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 178, 186-187.)

“The problem that the juvenile court seeks to address [in its dispositional order] need not be described in the sustained section 300 petition. [Citation.] In fact, there need not be a jurisdictional finding as to the particular parent upon whom the court imposes a dispositional order. [Citation.]” (In re Briana V., supra, 236 Cal.App.4th at p. 311 see also In re Christopher H., supra, 50 Cal.App.4th at p. 1006).) Court ordered programs ‘must be appropriate for each family and be based on the unique facts relating to that family.’ [Citation.]” (In re Michael S. (1987) 188 Cal.App.3d 1448, 1458.) The juvenile court “may make ‘all reasonable orders for the care, supervision, custody, conduct, maintenance, and support of the child . . . .’ (§ 362, subd. (a).)” (In re Jasmin C. (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 177, 180.)

  1. Analysis

Mother contends the juvenile court abused its discretion by ordering her to participate in a substance abuse program. In support of this position, she argues substantial evidence does not support the need for a full substance abuse program as her marijuana use was not the issue that led to dependency. Instead, mother contends her dependence on marijuana has decreased and the drug is used only “to address her acute chronic medical problems.” Additionally, mother argues her marijuana use has no impact on D.A.’s safety and welfare because she does not use marijuana in his presence and she stores it in a safe where D.A. cannot access it. Moreover, she argues participation in the drug program is “unduly burdensome and potentially jeopardizes the goal of retaining” D.A. in her custody. Finally, mother argues participation in the drug program is “not narrowly tailored to address the specific needs of this family.”

For the reasons discussed below, we disagree with mother’s arguments and affirm.

First, we, like the juvenile court, recognize marijuana use is legal in the state of California and acknowledge mother possesses a medical marijuana card. We find the drug program, however, was reasonably tailored to protect D.A.’s interest given the unique facts of this case. Here, the record shows mother smoked marijuana inside the home and when the children were present. Her conduct is especially harmful considering both children suffer from asthma. Additionally, the record shows the children have confronted mother about the impact her smoking has on them. Furthermore, not only did mother lie to the Department about her use of marijuana inside of the home, but she instructed her children to do the same. Moreover, multiple family members reported the children had complained about mother smoking marijuana in front of them. Family members also reported that mother’s home regularly smelled of marijuana. Although the juvenile court struck the allegation that mother’s marijuana use placed D.A. in danger, it could still reasonably find mother’s completion of a drug program would be in D.A.’s best interest. Further, the court could appropriately conclude the program could assist mother in addressing the issues giving rise to dependency jurisdiction by helping her understand the risk of harm D.A. faced due to J.A.’s marijuana abuse, and reducing the likelihood that her own use would impede her participation in the court-ordered domestic violence support group. We therefore conclude the dispositional order was not an abuse of discretion due to lack of evidentiary support.

Next, mother contends the drug program would impose an undue burden on her because she must also manage her unresolved domestic violence issues and medical conditions, and care for D.A. While it is true “[j]uvenile courts should be mindful of the burdens their disposition orders impose on parents already grappling with difficult conditions and circumstances[,] . . . the paramount concern always must be the child’s best interests[.]” (In re D.P. (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 1058, 1071.) As discussed above, the evidence demonstrates mother’s marijuana use impacted D.A.’s wellbeing. “[W]e cannot reverse a disposition order reasonably fashioned to eliminate the conditions that led to dependency jurisdiction, no matter how burdensome its requirements may seem from the parent’s perspective. [Citations.]” (Id. at pp. 1071-1072.) While we recognize and praise mother’s willingness to address the issues that caused the Department intervention, we find the evidence shows the mother’s completion of a drug program is in D.A.’s best interest.

Lastly, mother acknowledges the dispositional order “is not limited to” the court’s sustained jurisdictional findings and that a court has “wide latitude” in ordering reasonable services considering the “evidence as a whole.” (In re Briana V., supra, 236 Cal.App.4th at p. 311.) However, she argues the dispositional order should be reversed because it was not “narrowly tailored” to the issues that led to dependency. Mother’s reliance on In re Drake M. (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 754, 770 for this contention is misplaced. As the Department notes, the court in In re Drake M. did not hold that the dispositional order must be “narrowly tailored” to the issues that led to dependency intervention. (See In re Drake M., supra, 211 Cal.App.4th at p. 770.) Instead, the court held a program a parent is required to participate in ““‘must be appropriate for each family and be based on the unique facts relating to that family.’” [Citation.]” (Ibid.) For the reasons discussed above, we find the drug program was appropriate given the unique facts of this family.

DISPOSITION

The dispositional order is affirmed.

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS

CURREY, J.

We concur:

MANELLA, P.J.

COLLINS, J.


[1] This appeal is moot as to A.F. as the juvenile court terminated jurisdiction over him when he turned 18 years old in September 2020. (See In re C.C. (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1481, 1488.) Accordingly, this appeal pertains to only D.A.

[2] All undesignated statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code.





Description D.F. (mother) appeals from the juvenile court’s dispositional order requiring her to complete a full drug and alcohol program with aftercare and weekly testing. She contends the dispositional order must be reversed because: (1) it is unsupported by substantial evidence; (2) the drug program ordered is unduly burdensome; and (3) the order is not narrowly tailored to the circumstances giving rise to dependency. We disagree and affirm.
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