In re G.G. CA1/4
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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS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(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT
In re G.G. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF CONTRA COSTA COUNTY,
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES BUREAU,
Real Party in Interest.
(Contra Costa County
Super. Ct. Nos. J16-00532
Petitioner C.G. (Mother) filed this petition for an extraordinary writ seeking review of the court order setting a hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 to consider termination of parental rights and a permanent plan for eight-year-old G.G. and six-year-old N.G. Mother contends the court erred in denying her reunification services under section 361.5, subdivision (b)(6) because the court did not properly consider whether reunification was in the children’s best interests given Mother’s voluntary engagement of services. We deny the writ petition on the merits.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
C.G. is the mother of four children: G.G., N.G, as well as three-year old L.G. and one-year old I.G. Mother immigrated to the United States in 2012, leaving G.G. and N.G. in Honduras with their maternal grandmother. The girls were raised by the grandmother until coming to the United States in February 2016.
On May 27, 2016, the Richmond Police Department responded to a call of physical abuse of a five-year-old child. On June 1, 2016, the Contra Costa County Children and Family Services Bureau (the Bureau) filed a dependency petition for the children under section 300, subdivision (j), with a subdivision (a) allegation for N.G. Mother hit N.G. repeatedly with a belt, leaving red marks and bruises on her thigh, buttocks, and lower back area. N.G. also had a bruise consistent with a finger mark on her chest. She had a large knot on her forehead.
When interviewed, G.G. stated that she does not get hit as much as her sister, and N.G. reported she gets “hit a lot.” N.G. stated Mother hit her and pulled her hair. She was visibly missing hair from the crown of her head. Mother admitted to hitting N.G. with a belt on one occasion. She denied causing the contusion on N.G.’s head, claiming it was due to falling off a skateboard.
The Agency issued a memorandum on June 28, 2016, regarding a videotaped interview with N.G. N.G. stated both Mother and Stepfather would hit her, her sister, and L.G. with belts and their hands. Mother would force her to squat while she hit her with a belt. N.G. stated that the bump on her head was due to Mother hitting her in the back of the head, driving her head into a table. N.G.’s responses and behaviors were consistent with severe abuse over an extended period of time.
The Agency issued a further memorandum on July 12, 2016, regarding a videotaped interview with G.G. G.G. reported that Mother hit N.G. She stated Mother also hit L.G. but only with her hand, and stated he may get hit with a belt when he gets older. She said she did not get hit as much as her sister, who gets hit every night. She stated Mother had hit her in the legs with a belt. She stated Stepfather hit both she and N.G., but usually Stepfather goes into another room when Mother hits them.
Based on the new interviews, the Bureau concluded Mother had severely beaten N.G. on numerous occasions, despite Mother’s claim it had only been once. The Bureau further determined that Stepfather had also physically abused the children. On July 13, 2016, the Bureau filed an amended petition alleging Mother failed to protect N.G. from abuse by Stepfather, and Mother’s abuse constituted acts of cruelty pursuant to section 300, subdivision (i). The Bureau filed an amended petition for G.G. alleging Mother failed to protect her from physical abuse by Stepfather.
On August 19, 2016, the Bureau filed a memorandum regarding a forensic interview with N.G. N.G. disclosed she was sexually abused by her stepfather. She reported him touching her vaginal area both above and underneath her clothing when he was alone with her. She did not tell her Mother because she did not want Mother to hit her.
On September 9, 2016, the Bureau filed an amended dependency petition for G.G. alleging risk of physical harm from Mother, risk of physical harm from Stepfather, as well as sexual abuse of a sibling by Stepfather. On September 9, 2016, a second amended petition was filed alleging violations of section 300, subdivisions (a), (b)(1), (d), (i), and (j).
In a memorandum submitted September 29, 2016, the Bureau stated that G.G. reported domestic violence in the home. She said Stepfather would hit Mother with closed fists and with her siblings’ toys.
The juvenile court held a jurisdiction hearing on December 14, 2016, where Mother pled no contest to the allegations for G.G. and N.G. The court ordered one-hour weekly visits between Mother and G.G., but no visitation for N.G.
The Bureau filed a disposition report recommending no services be provided to Mother under section 361.5, subdivision (b)(6) due to the severe physical abuse of N.G. Criminal charges had been filed against Mother for felony willful cruelty to a child and corporal punishment of a child. The criminal court issued a protective order barring Mother from having contact with N.G. until 2020.
The evaluation of G.G. found she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and nightmares. Due to her experiences, she has been “parentified,” feeling the need to care for siblings. N.G. was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and had severe functional impairments with family relations. N.G. wants no contact and stated she never wants to see Mother again. In their first foster placement, G.G. attempted to drown N.G., and N.G. continuously hit her brother L.G.
The report stated that Mother was just beginning to gain insight into her behavior and why her children were removed. Mother had engaged in parenting and anger management classes as well as therapy. The Bureau concluded: “the children’s lives cannot wait until there is demonstrated proof that [Mother] has changed and the children are no longer at risk for harm in her care.” The Agency recommended no reunification services be offered Mother due to the infliction of severe physical abuse on N.G.
The court held a contested jurisdiction hearing. The social worker testified about Mother’s history of abuse: she was the victim of sexual abuse by her stepfather and a domestic violence victim both with her husband in Honduras and her husband here.
N.G. has permanent scarring on her body from the abuse. N.G. also has emotional scars. She does not want any contact with her family and says they are no longer her family. She still fears bathing and can remember the cause of every mark and scar on her body.
G.G. is “torn.” She had to verbally and physically intervene when Mother and Stepfather got into fights at home. She still has a strong desire to make sure her mother and siblings “are okay.”
Mother testified she had been in a program for parents who have abused their children. She had also been seeing a therapist for four months as well as attending anger management classes.
Mother testified that she punished N.G. “once” in an inappropriate way. She stated she had never hit her before with a belt or used physical discipline. She testified that the contusion on N.G.’s head was from falling off a skateboard. She denied she ever hit N.G. causing N.G’s head to hit the table. She stated the fingerprint bruise on N.G.’s chest was a birthmark.
Counsel for the Bureau argued that from both the pictures of N.G.’s injuries and both N.G. and G.G.’s statements, it was clear Mother was lying that the abuse only happened one time. Counsel argued that reunification is not in the girls’ best interests. Counsel outlined the factors in section 361.5, subdivision (i) and stated the specific act that led to the dependency was neighbors reporting to the police they heard a child screaming. The abuse caused severe emotional trauma to G.G. and N.G. Despite Mother’s statements, there is a history of abuse in this case. N.G. wants no further contact with Mother.
G.G.’s counsel argued that although she was not the victim of the severe abuse, she was a witness to the abuse of her siblings and the domestic violence between Stepfather and Mother. In her testimony, Mother minimized the abuse and did not admit she caused trauma to N.G. G.G. deserves a safe, stable, permanent home as soon as possible.
N.G.’s counsel argued that the photos of N.G.’s body show injuries and scars inflicted over a period of time. No amount of services can repair the relationship that does not appear to have existed in the first place.
The court found: “There is absolutely no question whatsoever that [N.G.] suffered from severe physical abuse. . . . [¶] The pictures speak for themselves.” This was not a one-time incident. The court found severe physical abuse by clear and convincing evidence. The court stated it could not find by clear and convincing evidence that it would be in N.G. or G.G.’s best interests to provide services to Mother. N.G. has emotional scars and does not want to see Mother. G.G. has suffered as well. She was exposed to domestic violence and watched the severe physical abuse of her sister. She tried to drown her sister.
The court found Mother needs to take responsibility for the damage she inflicted and until she can do that she cannot safely parent the children. Although she has engaged in services, she has not shown real, substantive progress.
The court found true all the allegations in the petition, section 300, subdivisions (a), (b), (d), and (i) for N.G., and subdivisions (b), (d), and (j) for G.G., by clear and convincing evidence. The court ordered no reunification services for Mother with G.G. or N.G. The court also found by clear and convincing evidence under section 361, subdivision (c)(4) that N.G. was sexually abused by Stepfather. The court set a section 366.26 hearing for September 6, 2017.
Mother argues that there was not substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s finding that reunification services should be denied. Mother does not dispute the trial court’s finding of severe abuse, but argues that reunification is in the children’s best interests.
In reviewing an order denying reunification services, we determine if substantial evidence supports it. (In re Gabriel K. (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 188, 196.) “[W]e resolve all conflicts in the evidence in favor of the juvenile court’s finding. [Citation.]” (Ibid.) “A juvenile court has broad discretion when determining whether . . . reunification services would be in the best interests of the child under section 361.5, subdivision (c). [Citation.] An appellate court will reverse that determination only if the juvenile court abuses its discretion. [Citation.]” (In re William B. (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1220, 1229.) The substantial evidence standard applies even if the standard of proof in the trial court is clear and convincing evidence. (In re Jasmine C. (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 71, 75.)
The juvenile court must provide family reunification services unless a specific statutory exception applies. (§ 361.5; Tyrone W. v. Superior Court (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 839, 845 (Tyrone W.).) Section 361.5, subdivision (b)(6)(A) provides where a child has been declared a dependent as the result of “the infliction of severe physical harm to the child” the court shall not order reunification services unless it finds by clear and convincing evidence that reunification is in the best interests of the child.
“In determining whether reunification services will benefit the child, the court is required to consider any information it deems relevant, including the following factors: (1) The specific act or omission comprising the severe physical harm inflicted on the child or the child’s sibling or half sibling; (2) The circumstances under which the abuse or harm was inflicted on the child or the child’s sibling or half sibling; (3) the severity of the emotional trauma suffered by the child or the child’s sibling or half sibling; (4) Any history of abuse of other children by the offending parent or guardian; (5) The likelihood that the child may be safely returned to the care of the offending parent or guardian within 12 months with no continuing supervision; (6) Whether or not the child desires to be reunified with the offending parent or guardian.” (§ 361.5, subd. (i); Tyrone W., supra, 151 Cal.App.4th at pp. 847 848.) We do not require a listing of the court’s finding on every factor listed in subdivision (i). (In re S.G. (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 1254, 1259 1261.) Findings may be implied rather than explicit, and a reviewing court “will infer a necessary finding provided the implicit finding is supported by substantial evidence. [Citations.]” (Id. at p. 1260.)
Here, the juvenile court considered the specific acts of abuse and the circumstances under which the abuse was inflicted. (§ 361.5, subd. (i)(1), (2).) The Bureau’s counsel outlined the factors in section 361.5, subdivision (i) and stated that the specific act that led to the dependency was neighbors reporting to the police they heard a child screaming. Counsel stressed that despite Mother’s denials, there is clear history of abuse in this case. The court agreed finding that the pictures speak for themselves, and this was not a one-time incident. “This was unbridled, physical violence upon a five-year-old child.” The court found the pictures of N.G. were “heartbreaking.”
The court found N.G. will always bear the emotional scars of her abuse. She does not want to see Mother again and does not want to be reunified with her. The juvenile court concluded G.G. also suffers from trauma, which was shockingly displayed by her attempt to drown her sister. G.G. witnessed both the abuse of her sister and Mother.
Mother has not taken responsibility for her actions and acknowledged the damage she inflicted, and the court concluded that until she can do so, she cannot safely parent the children. The court recognized she had engaged in services, but she had not shown substantive progress.
The court stated that G.G. needs a good and loving home and it is not in her best interests to reunify with Mother. The court found by clear and convincing evidence that it would not benefit the children to pursue reunification services with Mother.
Mother argues that it is not in N.G. and G.G.’s best interests to deny reunification because the court ordered reunification services for Mother with the two younger children, L.G. and I.G. She argues the court should seek to preserve sibling bonds. The juvenile court evaluated the abuse suffered and witnessed by the younger children and determined that reunification should be granted because of their circumstances. Unlike his older sisters, L.G. was with Mother since birth and I.G. was born after the dependency case began and has never lived in the home with Mother and Stepfather. The court found that, unlike N.G. and G.G., there was not clear and convincing evidence that reunification should not be provided.
Mother provides no authority for her argument and simply states that it creates an incongruous result to allow her to pursue reunification with L.G. and I.G. but not the older children. The juvenile court, however, carefully weighed the evidence in regard to all four children and determined that G.G. and N.G. had a different relationship with Mother than their younger siblings and, given their age and exposure to trauma, reunification was not in their best interests, while it was in the best interests of L.G. and I.G.
Given the severe abuse suffered by N.G., her ongoing trauma, and her stated desire to never see Mother again, the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in finding that reunification was not in the child’s best interests. Similarly, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying reunification services to Mother for G.G. G.G. witnessed the severe abuse and the domestic violence in the home and suffered from PTSD. As her counsel argued, she deserves a safe, stable, permanent home as soon as possible, as does her sister N.G.
The petition for writ of mandate is denied on the merits. (§ 366.26, subd. (l)(1)(c); Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.452.) The request for a stay is denied. Our decision is final as to this court immediately. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.490(b)(2)(A).)
RUVOLO, P. J.
|Description||Petitioner C.G. (Mother) filed this petition for an extraordinary writ seeking review of the court order setting a hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 to consider termination of parental rights and a permanent plan for eight-year-old G.G. and six-year-old N.G. Mother contends the court erred in denying her reunification services under section 361.5, subdivision (b)(6) because the court did not properly consider whether reunification was in the children’s best interests given Mother’s voluntary engagement of services. We deny the writ petition on the merits.|
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