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In re Mn. S. (F)

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

July 15, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: Mn. S. (F)

APPEAL FROM MADISON COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case No. 21020007

Stephen J. Pronai, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney, Rachel M. Price, for appellee, Madison County Children Services

Adkins & Arrington Law, Nicholas A. Adkins, for appellant, Alice S.

Shannon M. Treynor, for Brian S. Jennifer J. Hitt, guardian ad litem

OPINION

PIPER, J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, the biological mother of Mn. S. (F), appeals a decision of the Madison County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of the child to a children services agency.

{¶ 2} This case began in February 2010, when a complaint alleging Mn. was an unruly child was filed in the juvenile division of the Madison County Court of Common Pleas. The complaint alleged that Mn., who at the time was 10 years old, was unruly because she was habitually truant from school. A paternal aunt filed for temporary custody of Mn. and her two older sisters in August 2010. The aunt requested custody on the basis that Mn. had been living with her for several weeks while the child's mother was seeking treatment for a drug addiction. The aunt also alleged that the child needed a stable environment with supervision due to various problems within the home.

{¶ 3} Emergency temporary custody was granted to the aunt, and after a hearing, the court continued the aunt's temporary custody. The court found that the mother was addicted to opiates and was in the initial stages of treatment. The court further found that according to a psychological evaluation, the mother had previously sought treatment for her dependence and had relapsed five times.

{¶ 4} Mn. remained in her aunt's home until June 22, 2011, when she and her oldest sister was placed in the temporary custody of children services because her aunt was no longer able to care for them.[1] A case plan was prepared for the parents to work towards reunification with the children. Reunification was unsuccessful and on October 15, 2012, the agency filed for permanent custody of Mn. A hearing was held on February 12, 2013, and the court issued a decision granting permanent custody to the agency on February 20, 2013.

{¶ 5} The mother now appeals the juvenile court's decision to grant permanent custody of Mn. to the agency and raises one assignment of error for our review. In her sole assignment of error, appellant argues that the court's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶ 6} Before a natural parent's constitutionally protected liberty interest in the care and custody of her child may be terminated, the state is required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the statutory standards for permanent custody have been met. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 759, 102 S.Ct. 1388 (1982). An appellate court's review of a juvenile court's decision granting permanent custody is limited to whether sufficient credible evidence exists to support the juvenile court's determination. In re Starkey, 150 Ohio App.3d 612, 2002-Ohio-6892, ¶ 16 (7th Dist.). A reviewing court will reverse a finding by the juvenile court that the evidence was clear and convincing only if there is a sufficient conflict in the evidence presented. In re Rodgers (2000), 138 Ohio App.3d 510, 520 (12th Dist.).

{¶ 7} Pursuant to R.C. 2151.414(B)(1), a court may terminate parental rights and award permanent custody to a children services agency if it makes findings pursuant to a two-part test. First, the court must find that the grant of permanent custody to the agency is in the best interest of the child, utilizing, in part, the factors of R.C. 2151.414(D). Second, the court must find that any of the following apply: the child is abandoned; the child is orphaned; the child has been in the temporary custody of the agency for at least 12 months of a consecutive 22-month period; or where the preceding three factors do not apply, the child cannot be placed with either parent within a reasonable time or should not be placed with either parent. R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(a), (b), (c) and (d); In re E.B., 12th Dist. Nos. CA2009-10-139, CA2009-11-146, 2010-Ohio-1122, ¶ 22.

{¶ 8} The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence, and appellant does not dispute, that Mn. was in the temporary custody of the agency for more than 12 months of a consecutive 22-month period as of the date the agency filed the permanent custody motion.[2] However, appellant does dispute the juvenile court's finding that granting permanent custody of Mn. to the agency is in the child's best interest, and argues this finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶ 9} R.C. 2151.414(D)(1) provides that in considering the best interest of a child in a ...


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