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Name: In re D.B.
Case #: D073807
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/20/2018

Juvenile court properly found sufficient evidence for dependency jurisdiction of toddler minor based on physical abuse of older sibling. The six-year-old minor, Jordan, suffered serious injuries as a result of the parents’ routine practice of hitting him with a belt as punishment. Examinations showed older wounds in different stages of healing. A pediatric child abuse specialist determined that Jordan’s injuries were consistent with inflicted child abuse. The juvenile court found jurisdiction over both Jordan and his toddler sibling, D.B., and removed them from the parents. The court based the orders regarding D.B. on his age and the fact he had suffered emotional abuse by hearing his brother scream as he was being beaten by a belt. On appeal, parents contended that the jurisdictional findings regarding D.B. should be dismissed because the incidents of abuse on Jordan do not constitute substantial evidence to support the finding that D.B. was at substantial risk of suffering serious physical harm. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the juvenile court properly considered the totality of D.B.’s circumstances under section 300, subdivision (j) and properly concluded there was substantial evidence. The juvenile court considered D.B.’s age and gender, the parents’ lack of credibility in view of the conflicting stories and misinformation they had provided to the social worker, and the reason the parents gave for beating Jordan (that he had eaten donuts without permission). Even if the juvenile court had concluded that the parents credibly mitigated the risk to D.B. by participating in services and disavowing the use of corporal punishment, there would still be evidence to support the conclusion that D.B. was at risk. He was 18 months old and was vulnerable because of his size and nonverbal status. Further, there was evidence that Jordan had been neglected in other ways which would also apply to D.B., as he was constantly hungry and hoarded food, and had been sent to school with his injuries. The court also found there was substantial evidence to support the disposition orders. Although the parents had made “some progress” and gained “some insight,” it was too soon to conclude that D.B. would not be at substantial risk if returned home. In view of the severity of the abuse on the sibling and the parents’ credibility issues, the juvenile court could not dismiss the possibility that the parents were only saying what they expected the court wanted to hear.