S.F. Human Servs. Agency
v.
I.D. (In re A.D.)

This case is not covered by Casetext's citator
COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION FIVEAug 28, 2018
A153212 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 28, 2018)

A153212

08-28-2018

In re A.D. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. SAN FRANCISCO HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. I.D., Defendant and Appellant.


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115. (San Francisco County Super. Ct. Nos. JD16-3066, JD16-3066A)

I.D. (mother) appeals from a November 2017 juvenile court order authorizing the San Francisco Human Services Agency (Agency) to sign consents for treatment for, and to release medical information regarding, her children (Welf. & Inst. Code, §§ 362, 369). We affirm.

Statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code. We recite only those facts necessary to resolution of the appellate issue.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Mother has two children, Anthony D., born in 2008, and Christina D., born in 2009. Mother was arrested in 2014 for neglecting "her sick husband (stage 4 cancer) and her children." Mother's husband (the children's alleged father) died in August 2014. In March 2016, the Agency filed a section 300 petition; the amended petition alleged: (1) the children— then six and seven years old—were "left home alone . . . for hours at a time" in a house with a padlocked gate; and (2) "mother has a mental health problem requiring assessment and treatment" and had "been witnessed to be agitated, less than honest or forthcoming, isolated and hype[r]vigilant."

According to the detention report, the children were not enrolled in school, and they begged neighbors for food and attention. Mother had seven referrals, for neglect and domestic violence. Mother did not appear at the detention hearing. The court detained the children and placed them in foster care. At the jurisdictional hearing, the court determined the children came within section 300, subdivision (b). The court offered mother reunification services. Mother's case plan required her to, among other things, undergo a "psychiatric/psychological evaluation."

Medical Consent and Release Order and Status Review Hearings

In September 2016, the court authorized the Agency to consent for ordinary medical care for, and to release medical information regarding, the children. The court determined there was "no one willing" to sign consents or releases. The order was set to expire when a parent became "able and willing to sign consents and releases" and was accompanied by a declaration documenting the Agency's unsuccessful efforts to have mother "sign paperwork so that the children could receive mental health services." Anthony began therapy in late September 2016; Christina was to begin therapy thereafter.

In December 2016, mother claimed she intended to apply for a position at the Central Intelligence Agency, and stated she had filed lawsuits against numerous government agencies. Mother met with the social worker in late December 2016 for the first time, but the conversation was unproductive because mother " 'kept talking and repeating herself over and over.' " In early 2017, mother accused individuals involved in the dependency of kidnapping the children. In March 2017, mother and the children began therapeutic visitation at Alternative Family Services (AFS).

At the six-month review hearing, the court offered mother additional reunification services. The Agency's 12-month review report noted mother had been diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder. Mother received a referral for psychotherapy but had not begun treatment. The Agency expressed continued concern about mother's mental health. At the 12-month review hearing, the court offered mother six months of additional reunification services. In October 2017—pursuant to the parties' stipulation—the court restored mother's "rights to access, authorize release of, . . . [children's] confidential mental health information[.]"

Agency's Ex Parte Application and Opposition

In a November 2017 ex parte application, the Agency sought an order authorizing it to consent to treatment for, and to release medical information regarding, the children. According to the Agency, mother had "not followed through with the authorization for consents for treatment for [the children], resulting in a break in treatment. . . . Prior to the court restoring Mother her rights on October 18, 2017, the agency had the authority to authorize consents, during that time [the children] were receiving services. Mother did sign consents, but her modifications voided the validity, and the providers would not accept them."

See local rules of the San Francisco County Superior Court, rule 12.53, which provides a streamlined process for court approval of "ordinary" medical treatment and related releases of medical information when a parent is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to provide the approval.

The Agency argued it "would be in the best interests of the children" if the court limited mother's "right to authorize consents for treatment and releases of information" because mother's refusal to "cooperate with consents" had resulted in the children not receiving "therapeutic treatment for two weeks." In a supporting declaration, the social worker described her unsuccessful efforts to have mother sign consents for treatment at A Better Way and at AFS. The social worker told mother that "services could not start or continue without the signed consent forms." The declaration described unsuccessful attempts by AFS employees to obtain mother's signature on the consent forms. According to the declaration, mother eventually signed the consent forms in October 2017, but added "hand written notes" to the forms.

In opposition, mother argued she had not failed to sign consents. The opposition attached consent forms signed by mother. Mother, however, had crossed out the dates during which the consent was valid.

Hearing and Order

At a November 2017 hearing, the Agency stated there had been a plan to transition Anthony to a therapist at AFS, but that mother's refusal to sign unaltered consent forms had resulted in a "break in therapy for Anthony." The Agency asked the court to "direct the mother by the end of [the day] to sign unaltered consents . . . or that the Court vest that right to [the Agency]." It wanted the children to "receive therapy as soon as possible" and believed it was in Anthony's best interest to "see the therapist . . . who is also seeing [his] sister." According to the Agency, having the children see the same therapist was "one of the most significant ways" to maintain "continuity in the children's life. [¶] . . . We want to make sure that all the services that are needed for this family to be able to have a reasonable chance of getting back together are in place." Counsel for the children agreed with the Agency. Mother opposed the request, noting her concerns with Anthony receiving therapy with AFS and her preference for A Better Way.

Shortly after the hearing, the court issued an order authorizing the Agency to authorize consents for treatment and releases of information, as required to obtain medical treatment for the children. The court determined there was "no one able to sign consents" for medical care or releases of information, and that the children would benefit from prompt provision of medical care "to maintain and enhance their physical and mental well being[.]" Finally, the court concluded "delay in such treatment could be detrimental."

DISCUSSION

Mother contends the court erred by granting the Agency authority to sign consents for treatment and releases of medical information for the children. "The juvenile court has wide latitude in making orders necessary for the well-being of a minor" (In re Jasmin C. (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 177, 180) and "its determination will not be reversed save for clear abuse of that discretion." (In re Eric B. (1987) 189 Cal.App.3d 996, 1005.) To establish an abuse of discretion, mother must demonstrate the "court exercised its discretion in an arbitrary, capricious or patently absurd manner that resulted in a miscarriage of justice." (In re Joey G. (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 343, 346.)

Mother argues the court lacked "legal authority" to issue the order. We disagree. Where—as here—a child is adjudged a section 300 dependent, the court may make "all reasonable orders for the care, supervision, custody, conduct, maintenance, and support of the child, including medical treatment[.]" (§ 362, subd. (a). italics added.) The juvenile court may also "direct all such orders to the parent, . . . of a minor who is subject to any proceedings under this chapter as the court deems necessary and proper for the best interests of or for the rehabilitation of the minor. These orders may concern the care, . . . , and support of the minor, including . . . medical treatment." (§ 245.5.)

Moreover, where there is "no parent, . . . capable of authorizing or willing to authorize medical, . . . or other remedial care or treatment for the dependent child, the court may, . . . order that the social worker may authorize the . . . care for the dependent child, by licensed practitioners, as necessary." (§ 369, subd. (c).) Further, where "the court orders the performance of any medical, . . . or other remedial care pursuant to [section 369], the court may also make an order authorizing the release of information concerning that care to social workers, . . . or any other qualified individuals or agencies caring for or acting in the interest and welfare of the child under order, commitment, or approval of the court." (§ 369, subd. (e).) These statutes authorized the court to issue the order.

Mother's reliance on San Joaquin County Human Services Agency v. Marcus W. (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 182 (Marcus W.) does not alter our conclusion. In Marcus W., a dependency petition had not been filed; as a result, section 369 did not authorize the court to compel the minor to receive medical care. (Id. at p. 190.) Here, the court declared the children dependents under section 300. Marcus W. is distinguishable. --------

Next, mother claims she was "willing and capable of authorizing" the children's medical care and she "provided all necessary consents." Mother misunderstands the standard of review. We do not independently review the order. We determine if the order was an abuse of discretion, i.e., whether the "court exercised its discretion in an arbitrary, capricious or patently absurd manner that resulted in a miscarriage of justice." (In re Joey G., supra, 206 Cal.App.4th at p. 346.) The answer is no. The Agency sought the order to obtain mental health consents and releases of information so the children could receive necessary mental health treatment. The Agency provided evidence that mother refused to sign the consents and that her handwritten notations invalidated the consent forms she eventually signed. Under the circumstances, the court acted within its "wide latitude" by issuing the order, which was necessary for the children's well-being. (In re Jasmin C., supra, 106 Cal.App.4th at p. 180.) During the dependency proceedings, mother did not, as she seems to suggest, have the unfettered right to choose the therapist for her children. (See Jonathan L. v. Superior Court (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1074, 1103.) The order was not "overly broad."

Finally, we reject mother's complaint there was "insufficient evidence that the issue needed to be heard ex parte." The Agency brought the application ex parte because Anthony was not receiving the court-ordered therapy he needed.

DISPOSITION

The November 3, 2017 order is affirmed.

/s/_________


Jones, P.J. We concur: /s/_________
Simons, J. /s/_________
Needham, J.