T. J. v. Superior Court of City & Cnty. of S.F.

Decision Date29 March 2018
Docket NumberA153034
Citation21 Cal.App.5th 1229,230 Cal.Rptr.3d 928
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties T. J., Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of the City and County of San Francisco, Respondent; San Francisco Human Services Agency, Real Party in Interest.

21 Cal.App.5th 1229
230 Cal.Rptr.3d 928

T. J., Petitioner,
The SUPERIOR COURT of the City and County of San Francisco, Respondent;

San Francisco Human Services Agency, Real Party in Interest.


Court of Appeal, First District, Division 4, California.

Filed March 29, 2018

Furst & Pendergast, Margaret A. Pendergast, San Francisco, for Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

San Francisco Office of the City Attorney, Dennis J. Herrera, City Attorney, Kimiko Burton, Lead Attorney, Elizabeth McDonald Muniz, Deputy City Attorney, for Real Party in Interest.

Streeter, J.

21 Cal.App.5th 1232

In August 2016, T.J. (Mother), who is intellectually disabled, was raising three

230 Cal.Rptr.3d 933

boys, ages eight, four and two, single-handedly, as their father lived separately, uninvolved in their upbringing. The family came to the attention of the San Francisco Human Services Agency (Agency) because Mother had not been giving the eldest boy medications he needed for severe asthma, eczema, and environmental allergies. A home visit by the Agency's social workers showed the children were living in unsanitary conditions, and all three were detained, jurisdiction was assumed, and reunification services were ordered for Mother.

21 Cal.App.5th 1233

Services were terminated for Mother in November 2017, and the court set a hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code 1 section 366.26. Mother seeks writ relief, claiming she was not provided reasonable reunification services and the judge abused his discretion in terminating services and setting the hearing. Because Mother was waitlisted for a significant time on critical components of her case plan—individual therapy, in-home counseling, and parenting education—and was provided no assistance with in-home support services, anger management or housing, we conclude there was not substantial evidence the Agency had provided or offered reasonable services to Mother designed to address her special needs. We therefore grant the petition.


A. Detention: The Circumstances that Led to the Agency's Involvement

On August 4, 2016, the Agency received a referral from hospital staff for general and medical neglect of Mother's eight-year-old eldest son. Upon investigation, the Agency determined the eldest boy had a complicated health regimen of eight separate prescribed medications that had to be administered daily, some in pill form, some topical, and some inhalers, in some cases several times a day, as well as additional over-the-counter medicines as needed. Mother was not administering prescribed medications to him and had failed to pick up his medications from the pharmacy.

Mother also reported their home in public housing had bed bugs, cockroaches, mold, and a hole in the ceiling. The eldest boy had a serious allergy to dust mites, and hospital staff explained to Mother how to change the household environment to lessen his exposure, but Mother was unable to implement the recommendations. A report came in to the Agency the next day saying the family's home had been condemned a year previously. Mother was asked to leave her unit but refused. The reporting party said Mother refused to allow the housing authority into her unit to make repairs. According to this reporter, Mother was being followed by Family Mosaic Program,2 and she had not allowed this service into the home for some time.

Social workers from the Agency met with Mother on August 22, 2016 at her home. The home was extremely dirty, cluttered with food and trash, and

21 Cal.App.5th 1234

smelled of mold. The two-foot by three-foot hole in the ceiling had mold and water damage. The social workers concluded Mother's living conditions were dangerous to the

230 Cal.Rptr.3d 934

health and safety of the children. They collected the children and removed them from Mother's home that day. On August 25, 2016, the three boys were formally detained by court order and placed in foster care.

B. Jurisdiction and Disposition

Between detention and disposition on September 29, 2016, all three children were moved from foster care to their maternal grandmother's (MGM) home. By the disposition hearing, the eldest boy's health had stabilized in MGM's care, and the middle boy's potty-training, which had been delayed, had normalized.

The disposition report notes "[t]his is the case of an African American family comprised of [a] single mother, [T.J.] (age 34), and her three children ... [ages eight, four and two]. The alleged father ... is in custody awaiting trial ...." The report discusses Mother's mental health problems and the family's prior child welfare history. That history included a number of unsubstantiated referrals, though there was an incident in 2012 which led to dependency proceedings in which the two older boys were removed from their parents' care after it was reported Mother choked one of the boys, requiring hospitalization.

Following her sons' detention in 2012, Mother participated in family reunification services, reunified in July of 2013, and received family maintenance services until June of 2015, when the case was closed. In the course of this prior dependency, Dr. Amy Watt diagnosed Mother with depressive disorder NOS, "mild mental retardation," and personality disorder NOS. Mother reportedly had an IQ below 70, with impaired adaptive functioning, impaired interpersonal relationships, and "serious anger issues." Dr. Watt said Mother had prior mental health issues dating back to her childhood and claimed to have been hospitalized more than 16 times as a teenager due to anger management problems.

By late September 2016, Mother had vacated her public housing apartment to allow repairs to be made. The disposition report indicated the work was supposed to be finished by the end of September 2016. In the report, the social worker opined Mother would need ongoing services from Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC) and specialized service providers until the boys turned 18. She recommended GGRC's Apple Family Works (AFW), which offered in-home parenting and counseling services. Mother was expected to work with a provider of in-home support services to learn life skills needed for independent living and caring for her sons. The Agency had no concerns

21 Cal.App.5th 1235

about a drug or alcohol problem for Mother. She had a minimal juvenile delinquency history and no adult criminal history. The report noted domestic violence was not an issue because Mother and the children's father had separated in 2014. Nevertheless, the social worker expressed skepticism from the outset that Mother would succeed in reunifying with her sons.

At the jurisdiction/disposition hearing on September 29, 2016, Mother submitted to a section 300, subdivision (b) allegation that she "requires the Agency's assistance in providing adequate care and supervision of the children in that she has mental health and developmental disabilities that impede her ability to care for the children." That was the only sustained allegation against Mother; the remaining allegations against her were stricken. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court ordered reunification services for Mother and out-of-home placement for the children in the care of MGM. The court also ordered therapeutic visitation for Mother and the boys.

230 Cal.Rptr.3d 935

C. Mother's Orders at Disposition

The specifics of Mother's court-ordered case plan were as follows. She was directed to (1) reactivate her GGRC case management services to attain deeper knowledge and demonstrate understanding of her independent living needs; (2) participate in GGRC long term case management and follow up with the recommended treatment plan; (3) participate in individual therapy and follow recommended treatment, which could include a medication evaluation; (4) engage in anger management services or address anger management as a part of the mental health treatment plan; (5) participate in family therapy through the Infant Parent Program (IPP) with the two younger boys and family therapy with the eldest boy, to get support with the ongoing mental health needs of her children; (6) get access to AFW through GGRC, complete the program and allow the child welfare worker and other in-home support providers to assess how effectively she was applying the program's parenting skills; (7) work with the child welfare worker to enroll in an in-home supportive services program, complete an assessment, and follow recommended assistance in activities of daily living such as cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking, washing dishes, bathing, grooming, dressing, and getting transportation to appointments; and (8) secure housing and keep the home clean and organized.

D. The Six-Month Review

The Agency filed a status review report on March 8, 2017, in connection with the six-month review hearing held on March 28, 2017. For that review, the Agency recommended an additional six months of reunification services for...

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