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In re Dependency of LS

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

October 2, 2017

In the Matter of the Dependency of LS, DOB: 05/13/2000, Minor child,
v.
PA, Appellant. LS, Respondent,

          BECKER, J.

         A teenage girl who felt unsafe at home brought this action to have herself declared dependent so that she could continue to live apart from her mother. The mother seeks to have the order of dependency vacated on the ground that the Department of Social and Health Services was not joined as a party. The mother did not argue below that the department should be joined, and she has not identified a proper basis for considering the issue for the first time on appeal. We affirm.

         FACTS

         In fall of 2015, LS, then 15 years old, entered into counseling to deal with the anxiety and panic attacks she was experiencing. In January 2016, LS disclosed that her older brother had sexually abused her when she was younger. Her counselor reported this to Child Protective Services (CPS).

         At the time, LS was staying with a friend and she refused to return home. A CPS family assessment response team interviewed LS and members of her family and made a written determination for the department that the family home was safe for LS because her brother no longer lived there. "The Department is not taking any action at this time to place [LS] outside of her home. Due to her brother no longer residing in the home, the Department does not feel that there are any active safety threats." The department anticipated that LS would remain with her friend's family on a short-term basis and that the family would "receive services to help her transition back home."

         LS, acting pro se, filed a dependency petition on February 8, 2016. Using an online court form, she filled in the space for facts supporting the allegation of dependency with a 26-paragraph summary of the problems in her family life. These included:

• Her father is currently imprisoned for raping her older sister for a number of years.
• Her father physically abused her, her mother, and her siblings.
• Her mother allowed and even encouraged her father to physically abuse her.
• She was not sure her mother believed that she had been sexually abused by her brother. Her mother "doesn't understand why I don't feel safe." She was not sure that her older brother would stay away from the family's apartment. "I disagree with CPS stating that my home is no longer unsafe."
• Her mother did not pay attention to her educational needs, did not attend to her medical needs, and denied she suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. Her mother's current husband "gets angry.... I have a hard time trusting him."
• She was experiencing thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

         Thereafter, LS was represented by counsel. LS's mother contested the dependency petition. LS's father, still incarcerated, agreed to an order of dependency.

         The court issued a shelter care hearing order on February 18, 2016. The court found that LS was in need of shelter care "based on her high anxiety and possibility of self harm." The order provided that LS would remain in shelter care in the temporary custody of the couple she was living with. At her own discretion, she could have visitation with her mother and siblings. The court ordered family and individual counseling, with the goal of "reunification ...


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