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Name: In re I.I.
Case #: B298184
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/03/2019

Where a section 300(f) petition is sustained, the court must assert jurisdiction even where there is no evidence that the minors currently at issue are at risk of harm. In 2010 mother took her then four-month-old twins to the hospital, where hospital personnel determined that the twins were suffering injuries consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. One twin died from the injuries, and 300 (b), (e), and (f) petitions were subsequently sustained which alleged that the twins were suffering from severe brain injuries consistent with nonaccidental trauma. The remaining twin and siblings were removed. Parents failed to reunify, and their parental rights were subsequently terminated. In 2016 and 2017 parents had two more children. In 2018, the family again came to the attention of DCFS when medical personnel suspected sexual abuse. However, it was later determined that there had been no sexual abuse. DCFS found no safety issues with the children other than a concern relating to the earlier history. The Department filed a petition under section 300 (b), (f), and (j) on behalf of the minors and their half-siblings, alleging the prior parental rights termination due to parents’ physical abuse of the twins. The court found the minors at risk of harm based solely on the family’s prior child welfare history. The minors were placed with the parents, who were ordered to participate in services. Father appealed, arguing that the juvenile court erred in concluding it was required to sustain the section 300(f) allegation in the petition. Father contended that the court had the discretion to dismiss the section 300(f) allegation, and should have done so because there was no evidence the minors had been abused or neglected or were at risk of harm. The appellate court rejected the argument and affirmed. The California Supreme Court in In re Ethan C. (2012) 54 Cal.4th 610 held that even in the absence of evidence of actual harm to surviving children, the juvenile court must sustain a petition if it finds the section 300(f) facts exist. Where, as here, there is uncontroverted evidence to support the subdivision (f) allegation, the decision to establish jurisdiction is not discretionary. Only at the disposition phase of the proceedings does the court have the discretion to determine whether to adjudge the child to be a dependent of the court. Here, the record shows that the court understood that statutory scheme and In re Ethan C. Therefore, there was no error.