Parental Neglect Unnecessary In A Finding Of Dependency Court Jurisdiction Based On Parental Failure or Inability To Adequately Protect A Child

October 30, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone
By Law Offices of James V. Sansone on October 30, 2012 8:00 AM |

out-of-control-teens-1.jpgMaricela H. was an out-of-control teenager. She used drugs, drank, fought, and stopped going to school. In 2010, when she was 15 years old, she gave birth to a child. Despite her mother's best efforts to control her, Maricela continued engaging in risky, self-destructive behavior. She frequently ran away for days at a time, chased after older men, had unprotected sex, and used drugs and alcohol.

In 2011, when Maricela left home yet again, mother filed a police report and called the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

The county detained Maricela and filed a dependency petition alleging Maricela was at risk of suffering serious physical harm or illness as a result of her mother's failure or inability to supervise or protect her adequately.

The dependency court sustained the county's petition. Mother Maria A. appealed, arguing substantial evidence did not support jurisdiction because there is no evidence of parental neglect.

The court of appeal affirmed, holding that a showing of neglect was not necessary for a finding of dependency jurisdiction under ยง300(b).

Section 300(b) provides for dependency jurisdiction where a child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm or illness, as a result of the failure or inability of his or her parent or guardian to adequately supervise or protect the child .

This language is unambiguous, the court found. The provision only requirement concerning parental conduct is that the parent failed or was unable to adequately supervise or protect the child. The application of the provision is not limited to cases where the parent's failure or inability is the product of parental negligence or misconduct. A showing of parental fault is thus not required.

Here, the record contained substantial evidence that Maricela was at substantial risk of suffering serious physical harm. She engaged in dangerous behaviors that threatened her life, health, and welfare. Mother knew Maricela was running away and engaging in dangerous behaviors, but her responses were ineffectual. This was substantial evidence that Maricela was at substantial risk of harm as a result of her mother's inability to adequately supervise or protect her.

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone offers a full range of family law legal services including divorce, domestic violence, enforcement of court orders, and guardianships. We are located in Santa Rosa, California and serve clients throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.