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In re C.J.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District

July 12, 2013

In re C.J. aka C.H., T.J. aka T.A.-J., T.A., Cayr.J. aka C.J.

Trial Court Nos. 11212008, 12222958

James A. Popil, for appellant.

Jeremy G. Young, for appellee.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT

PIETRYKOWSKI, J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, C.J. ("Mother"), appeals a February 21, 2013 judgment of the Juvenile Division of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas. The judgment terminated parental rights with respect to four of Mother's children and awarded permanent custody of the four to Lucas County Children Services ("LCCS"). The children are Cr.J., Cl.J., Ty.J., and Te.A. K.B. is the father of Cr.J. T.A. is the father of Ty. J. and Te.A. L.H. is the father of Cl.J. The fathers have not appealed the trial court judgment.

History with LCCS

{¶ 2} In its judgment, the trial court recognized that LCCS has a long history with this family. In 2006, Cr.J., the oldest child, was removed from the home at age one. LCCS caseworkers had come to the home and found him alone in the apartment in a bathtub of water.

{¶ 3} In the February 21, 2013 judgment, the trial court summarized the circumstances of the removal:

The issues causing * * * [Cr.J's] * * * first removal included concerns for anger management; the mother was being evicted; mother became hostile with LCCS staff and had to be restrained by security; and she was later found to have a 10-inch knife after she was booked in the county jail. Also, mother complained about * * * [Cr.J.'s] behavior, stating that he cries all the time and 'fights' her. {¶ 4} In 2007, after mother completed plan services, Cr.J. was returned to Mother's custody. Cr.J, however, was removed from the home again in 2008, with his sister, Cl.J. (Cl.J. was born in January 2007.) After mother completed services, the children were returned to mother.

{¶ 5} On February 11, 2011, LCCS filed a complaint in dependency and neglect in the trial court with respect to three of the children, Cl.J, Ty.J., and Te.A. At the time Cl.J. was 4 years of age, Ty.J was 11/2, and Te.A. was one month. The trial court described the circumstances of the filing in its judgment: "LCCS received a referral that * * * [Ty.J] was not being supervised and fell off a porch, resulting in a gash and black eye. The LCCS also received a referral that * * * [Ty.J.] had burned his hands on the oven door four or five weeks earlier."

{¶ 6} The trial court found Cl.J, Ty.J. and Te.A to be dependent children and awarded temporary custody of them to LCCS. Cr.J. was not involved in the neglect and dependency proceedings. He resided outside the home. Mother had voluntarily placed him in the care of a woman who had acted as her foster mother in Mother's youth. The former foster mother applied for custody of the boy, but failed to appear at the hearing on the request and the matter was dismissed.

{¶ 7} The record reflects attempts by LCCS to conduct a home study of the former foster mother to support placement of Cr.J. with her. Those efforts were unsuccessful first, because of delays in securing the home study and second, due to receipt by LCCS of a referral concerning the former foster mother. Cr.J. was placed in the temporary custody of LCCS in April 2012.

{¶ 8} Mother's fifth child was born on September 7, 2012, and in separate proceedings was placed in the legal custody of a cousin.

{¶ 9} LCCS filed a motion for permanent custody of Cl.J, Ty.J., and Te.A. on September 4, 2012. LCCS filed a motion for permanent custody of Cr.J. on October 3, 2012. Both motions proceeded to trial together on January 11, 2013. The court issued its judgment awarding permanent custody of the children to LCCS on February 21, 2013.

{¶ 10} Mother asserts four assignment of error on appeal:

I. The trial court erred in finding that appellee Lucas County Children Services Board had made a reasonable effort to reunify the minor children with appellant C.J.
II. The trial court erred in granting appellee Lucas County Children Services Board's motion for permanent custody as the decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
III. The trial court erred in awarding permanent custody to appellee Lucas County Children Services Board as there were suitable relatives available to take legal custody.
IV. Appellant C.J. was denied the effective assistance of counsel.

{¶ 11} A parent's right to raise his or her children is a fundamental right. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000); In re C.F., 113 Ohio St.3d 73, 2007-Ohio–1104, 862 N.E.2d 816, ¶ 28. The interest in the care, custody, and control of one's children is "one of the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized in American law." In re K.H., 119 Ohio St.3d 538, 2008-Ohio-4825, 895 N.E.2d 809, ¶ 39, citing Troxel, 530 U.S. at 65. As a termination of parental rights to raise one's children strikes at the core of the parent-child relationship, parents "must be afforded every procedural and substantive protection the law allows." In re Hayes, 79 Ohio St.3d 46, 48, 679 N.E.2d 680 (1997).

{¶ 12} A juvenile court may award permanent custody of a child to a public children services agency where the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, the existence of one of the four factors listed in R.C. 2151.414(B)(1) (a) through (d) and that it is in the best interest of the child to grant permanent custody to the agency. In re M.B., 10th Dist. No. 04AP755, 2005-Ohio-986, ¶ 6; R.C. 2151.414(B)(1).

{¶ 13} A finding under R.C. 2151.414 (B)(1)(a) requires a finding that the child cannot be placed with either parent within a reasonable time or should not be placed with the child's parents. R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(a). R.C. 2151.414(E) directs a court to "enter a finding that the child cannot be placed with either parent within a reasonable time or should not be placed with either parent" where it finds by clear and convincing evidence that "one or more" of the factors listed under R.C. 2151.414(E) exist.

{¶ 14} In this case, trial court found by clear and convincing evidence, pursuant to R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(a), that the children could not be placed with either parent within a reasonable time or should not be placed with either parent. The court relied on factors R.C. 2151.414(E)(1) and (2) in making the finding. The court also found by clear and convincing ...


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