Declare Child as Dependent Because of Domestic Violence in California

In In re Brandon C. (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1530, two minors were declared dependent children because they had been victims of domestic violence, and their mother had a history of substance abuse. They were placed with their paternal grandmother. Reunification services were terminated when the parents failed to complete court-ordered treatment. At the permanency planning hearing, the juvenile court ordered legal guardianship for the minors with their paternal grandmother without terminating parental rights, finding that it would be in the children's best interests to preserve the ongoing relationship with their mother who had maintained regular visitation. (Brandon C., supra, 71 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1532-1533.) The Department of Child and Family Services appealed claiming there was insufficient evidence that termination of parental rights would be detrimental. (Brandon C., supra, 71 Cal.App.4th at p. 1533.) In rejecting this claim, the court noted that over the four years of the dependency from 1994 to 1998, mother had consistently maintained regular visitation, during which she interacted with and played with the children, helped feed and care for them, and kept them safe. At one point during this period, one of the children cried for long periods and resisted going to bed after mother's visits. Both children had a good relationship with and seemed to love mother, whom they called mommy, and they looked forward to her visits. In addition, mother had completed her drug rehabilitation program, she had maintained a stable residence, and she had been employed as a receptionist in a law office. The children's grandmother opined that it was not in the children's best interests to terminate mother's rights because of their relationship to her. However, she preferred to adopt her grandchildren rather than be their guardian. Either way, she felt that mother would always be in their lives, and they would always refer to her as mommy. Mother testified that she and the children were closely bonded. The court found that this evidence was sufficient to support the juvenile court's finding that termination of mother's rights would be detrimental to the children. (Id. at pp. 1535-1537.)