Juvenile Court May Exercise Jurisdiction Over a Child Even Without Parental Negligence or Abuse - In re Maricela H.
A mother appealed a court order giving jurisdiction over her daughter to the juvenile court. She argued, in In re Maricela H., that insufficient evidence existed to support the court's finding because no evidence demonstrated that she was in any way abusive or negligent. The appellate court held that the plain language of the statute does not require actual abuse or negligence, and that the evidence supported the court's ruling. A dissenting judge held that, even with the majority's interpretation of the statute, the juvenile court's jurisdiction was unwarranted.
According to the appellate court's opinion, the mother had little to no control over her daughter, Maricela H. The girl rarely told her mother where she was going, and she abused drugs and alcohol. The mother took Maricela's son in 2010 and cared for him after Maricela gave birth to him at the age of 15. Maricela reportedly left home again on September 16, 2011 and threatened to take the baby with her. In response, the mother contacted the police and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
DFCS took the baby into custody and placed Maricela into a Pasadena group home. Maricela reportedly expressed a desire to improve, but she continued to act out and abuse drugs. After she ran away from the home on November 8, 2011, she was detained, and DCFS filed a petition under California Welfare and Institutions Code § 300 to have her declared a dependent. Her behavior reportedly improved after that incident. The court declared her a dependent under § 300(b), based on a finding that she was at risk of "serious physical harm or illness" due to her mother's "failure or inability...to adequately supervise or protect" her. The mother appealed this decision.