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Name: Serena M. v. Fresno County Superior Court
Case #: F080612
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/30/2020
Summary

Denial of mother’s requests for therapeutic supervised visitation with teenager who refused to visit constituted a denial of reasonable services. The 15-year-old minor, C.C. was removed from mother due to excessive discipline by mother and mother’s boyfriend. Reunification services were ordered, but the minor refused to visit mother or have any contact with her. The juvenile court encouraged the minor to visit, and ordered a supervised exchange of letters and gifts. The minor continued to refuse to visit mother, but enjoyed the letters and gifts. She did not send anything back to her mother. Mother’s attorney filed a 388 petition requesting therapeutic supervised visitation to mend the relationship. The juvenile court summarily denied the petition, and found that visitation would be detrimental. C.C. ran away from foster care but her attorney said she was still refusing to reunify with mother. The court denied a second 388 petition requesting supervised therapeutic visitation because C.C. was missing. At the review hearing, the Department recommended termination of reunification services. Although mother had completed some services, she had not completed others, and she was unlikely to reunify given minimal progress and the lack of visitation. C.C. told the court that she did not wish to see her mother in any setting and wanted to be returned to her grandparents. C.C. did occasionally contact her mother, and the contacts were positive. There had been an in-person visit, which went well. However, mother was ordered not to contact C.C. or see her unless the Department supervised the contact, so that contact was in violation of court orders and mother was advised not to visit again unless supervised. The Department did not pursue therapeutic supervised visits because of the court’s detriment finding, and C.C.’s continued refusal to visit. At the review hearing, mother argued that she was denied reasonable services because she was denied visitation. The court terminated services. The court did not believe it had delegated visitation to C.C. The appellate court granted a writ petition filed by mother, and remanded the case. Reasonable services were not offered or provided to mother. Mother’s only hope for repairing the relationship with C.C. was to work through their issues in a therapeutic setting. The juvenile court made that impossible by forbidding in-person contact. While the evidence supports the court’s decision for an initial period, it does not support depriving mother visitation for an entire 18-month period.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F080612.PDF