Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Re I.G. (Cal. Ct. App. - May 20, 2014)

"I.G. was 14 years old when she came to the attention of the Agency in July 2012. She had just tested positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana, after giving birth to a premature baby. The Agency filed a petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 3001 on behalf of I.G.’s baby alleging I.G. and the baby’s father were both using alcohol and illegal drugs, were assaultive toward each other and others, and had not been visiting the baby or learning how to care for her. The allegations were found true and I.G. was provided reunification services, but she did not maintain contact with her attorney or the social worker.

In October 2012, the Agency discovered that I.G.’s mother was rarely home, using methamphetamine and abusing alcohol, and allowing drug users to frequent the home and sleep in the breezeway outside their home. Mother’s whereabouts were unknown to I.G. and her siblings (ages 11, 12, and 17) much of the time. I.G., after one of her many arguments with mother, ran away and became homeless, was not attending school, and was using methamphetamine and marijuana. I.G. was physically aggressive at home, had a history of assaulting her mother and siblings and, on at least one occasion, assaulted and injured a sibling with a knife. Law enforcement had responded to the mother’s residence on 28 occasions over the previous three years due to domestic disturbances and I.G. and her sister frequently running away. I.G.’s father was serving a lengthy term in prison in the State of Washington for attempted murder and possession of a firearm."

How you break this cycle is totally beyond me.  What a mess.

That's even more the case when the attitude of the relevant party (I.G.) is aptly described by her statement that all she wants to do is to "live wherever and be a kid."  Uh, well, here's the thing:  You're a child with a child, you and your baby father hit each other, you don't give a crap about your kid, you're using meth and you've used a knife on one of your siblings.  The option to just "be a kid" pretty much went out the window once you became a mother.  I understand that you don't think that way.  As amply reflected by the fact that being pregnant didn't stop you from continuing to get high (and have a premature baby).  But that's the stark reality.  Playtime's over.

So the child/parent here doesn't look very good.  Nor, to be honest, does the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, which is in charge of recommending where she should stay.  Here's what the Court of Appeal has to say about the Agency:

"The Agency argues I.G. 'is not simply an obstinate minor,' but 'a street-wise minor/mother who has shown her ability to survive on her own and with her family. That is where she intends to be and that is what [the juvenile] court appropriately allowed and ordered.' This is a stunning argument by counsel for a child protective service agency. We reject it out of hand. The record, to be sure, reflects a number of negatives. I.G. was a frequent runaway and a habitual truant. She continued to use illegal drugs during her teenage pregnancy. That may have led to the premature birth of a child she essentially abandoned. She had a history of violence against her siblings and in the presence of law enforcement. It is this behavior and these circumstances which have resulted from I.G. being in her mother’s custody. Having been handicapped by poor parenting for years, I.G. has now been abandoned by the administration of child dependency justice and again left alone to attempt to manage her own well-being sensibly. Clearly, she cannot do it. Equally clearly, it is error for the Agency and the court to abdicate their legal duties in the face of it all, however apparently difficult."

Come on, Justice Nicholson.  Tell us what you really think.

I'm not optimistic at all that the underlying situation is going to get much better.  Neither, I imagine, does the Court of Appeal.

But you gotta try.  Because the status quo is simply intolerable.  A situation which will likely replicate itself in the next generation.  As it did the generation before.