SARA D., Defendant and Appellant

Posted: 17th March 2011 by Doc in Uncategorized
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In June 2007 the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (the Agency) filed petitions on behalf of the children, which alleged they had been exposed to domestic violence between Sara and her boyfriend. (§ 300, subd. (b).) The children then ranged in age between three and seven years. The oldest boy, C.F., has Down’s syndrome and special needs.
The Agency intervened the preceding May. Sara agreed to voluntary services and to have her boyfriend move out of the home. She did not follow through with referrals, however, or keep in contact with the Agency. A maternal aunt reported she had not seen the family for some time, the oldest two children were truant from school, and she understood the family was living “at a known drug house” with Sara’s boyfriend. The Agency located the family and took the children into protective custody. They were detained with the aunt. In addition to an ongoing domestic violence issue, Sara admitted she has a lengthy history of crystal methamphetamine use, and that “she would care for the children while being under the influence . . . for two to three days at a time.”
The court ultimately allowed Sara 18 months of services, including participation in SARMS (Substance Abuse Recovery Management System), domestic violence and parenting programs, general counseling, and supervised visitation. At the 18-month review hearing in March 2009, the court found she was in compliance with her case plan and returned the children to her care, subject to family maintenance services.
In September 2009, however, the Agency filed supplemental petitions for the children (§ 387), alleging Sara had relapsed “because she felt overwhelmed with the care of the children and financial challenges.” In July and August 2009 she tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines. She admitted to drug use. The children were returned to their maternal aunt and Sara voluntarily reentered treatment.
In February 2010 Sara again tested positive for methamphetamine. Further, despite a restraining order in place she had resumed a relationship with her boyfriend, and he had again physically abused her. In March Sara did not appear for a drug test.
In its assessment report for the section 366.26 hearing, the Agency recommended the termination of parental rights and adoption as the preferred permanent plan. During a contested hearing in October 2010, Sara argued for the preservation of her parental rights. The court found by clear and convincing evidence that the children are adoptable and none of the statutory exceptions to adoption is applicable. The court terminated parental rights and found adoption is in the children’s best interest.3

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