Skip to content
Name: In re Z.G. et al.
Case #: G053232
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 11/17/2016
Summary

Court order that reunification services were in the minors’ best interests was reversed where parents caused the death of a sibling by their neglect. The juvenile court sustained a petition and removed the minors from their parents after the minors’ sibling died from asphyxiation while sleeping in a bed with mother. The juvenile court ordered reunification services even though it found that neglect was a cause of the sibling’s death, finding that reunification was in the best interests of the surviving minors. Parents appealed from the jurisdiction and disposition orders, contending that there was insufficient evidence to support the court’s finding that their neglect was a cause of the sibling’s death. The minors also appealed from the disposition order, contending that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding that reunification was in their best interests. The Department joined in the minors’ argument. The appellate court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the court’s finding that the parents’ neglect was the cause of the sibling’s death. The parents’ neglect was putting the seven-month-old sibling in the same bed with parents instead of in his own crib. The ordinary risks of cosleeping were magnified by mother’s lack of sleep after methamphetamine use, and then subsequent marijuana use. Mother was in an “altered state” and father knew this when he put the baby in the bed with mother and left. The jurisdiction orders and the finding that parents were subject to bypass under section 361.5(b)(4) were not error. However, there was insufficient evidence that reunification was in the best interests of the minors. There must be some reasonable basis to conclude that reunification is possible before services are offered to a parent who need not be provided them. Here, mother had a substantial mental health and substance abuse history, used drugs while pregnant with all the minors, and was convicted of child endangerment previously for failing to secure one of the minors in a car seat after she used marijuana. Neither parent made an adequate effort to address those issues or participate in services. Further, the gravity of the problem leading to the dependency (i.e., the death of a sibling), weighed in favor of bypass. Therefore, the portion of the disposition order granting reunification services to parents was reversed.