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In re K.C.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District

August 5, 2013


Appeal from Allen County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division Trial Court No. 2011 JG 28530.

F. Stephen Chamberlain for Appellant/Mother.

Mariah M. Cunningham for Appellee, Allen Co. CSB.

James A. Roeder, Guardian Ad Litem.



{¶1} Mother-appellant Yanica Wright ("Wright") brings this appeal from the judgments of the Court of Common Pleas of Allen County, Juvenile Division terminating her parental rights. For the reasons set forth below, the judgment is affirmed.

{¶2} This court initially notes that this case is a companion case to case nos. 1-12-49, 1-12-50, and 1-12-51. In February of 2001, K.C. was born to Wright and Daniel Wright.[1] In December of 2006, K.C. was adjudicated an abused child in case no. 2006-JG-23597. A sibling residing in the home at that time was found to be a dependent child. Wright served a jail term for her abuse of K.C. K.C. was then placed under protective supervision, which terminated by operation of law on November 25, 2008.

{¶3} On April 29, 2010, K.C. was placed under the protective supervision of Allen County Children Services ("the Agency"), along with his three siblings, G.W., T.W., and M.W. He was removed from the home under an emergency shelter care order on December 17, 2010. Temporary custody of K.C. was granted to the Agency at that time. On March 21, 2011, a new emergency shelter care order was signed and temporary custody of K.C. was continued with the Agency.[2] The trial court granted the shelter care request due to Wright's failure to address K.C.'s need for counseling, the medical and dental needs of the children, the personal hygiene needs of her children and for denying the Agency access to her home. On March 22, 2011, the Agency filed a complaint alleging that K.C. was a dependent and neglected child. The Agency alleged in the complaint that Wright had failed to insure that K.C. received the required counseling, that Wright failed to comply with her own mental health service plan, and that Wright failed to maintain a clean and safe environment for K.C. Also on that day, K.C. was moved to a new foster home at the request of the foster parents due to his behavioral issues. A case plan was filed on March 24, 2011. The case plan required Wright to complete the following goals: 1) obtain a psychological assessment, 2) attend counseling consistently, 3) take random drug screens and test negative for all illicit drugs, 4) maintain the home in a clean and safe condition, 5) permit the Agency personnel to check on the home conditions at random, unannounced times, and 6) communicate with her caseworker. On March 25, 2011, the Guardian Ad Litem ("the GAL") filed a motion to suspend Wright's visitation with the children. This motion was based upon the fact that Wright became irrational and aggressive during a visitation to the point that the police had to be called to escort her from the building. The motion was granted by the trial court on April 1, 2011.

{¶4} An adjudicatory hearing on the March 22, 2011, complaint was held on May 12, 2011. The magistrate determined that the previous action had begun due to the poor home conditions including finding human feces in the heat registers. The magistrate noted that K.C. had severe food hoarding issues as well as behavioral issues that needed addressed. Wright had mental health needs that also needed to be addressed. Wright did not follow the case plan and obtain the necessary counseling for the two of them. Although Wright had been found in contempt of court for her failure to follow the case plan, she still chose not to comply and had to spend 30 days in jail for contempt of court. In addition, Wright's March 2011 drug screen was positive for marijuana. Wright had been terminated from mental health services for noncompliance. Due to Wright's failure to allow the Agency to view the home and other failure to comply with the case plan, the magistrate determined that K.C.'s environment was unsafe and found him to be a dependent child. The dispositional hearing was held on May 20, 2011. Temporary custody of K.C. was granted to the Agency. The trial court adopted the decisions of the magistrate concerning adjudication and disposition on July 5, 2011.

{¶5} On August 12, 2011, the Agency had to change K.C.'s foster home a second time due to the foster parents being unable to meet his needs. The Agency attempted to obtain Wright's consent to modify the case plan for K.C.'s new placement. However, on August 17, 2011, as the caseworker pulled up to her home, Wright walked away before she could be addressed. On August 19, 2011, the caseworker attempted to contact Wright again, but no one answered the door. The caseworker left her card, but Wright did not contact her. Thus, the Agency was forced to seek court approval of the change to K.C.'s placement.

{¶6} Wright, on August 18, 2011, filed a motion for in-home visitation with K.C. and his siblings. The Agency opposed the motion on the grounds that Wright was not complying with the case plan. A hearing on the motion for visitation and approval of a modified case plan was held on October 13, 2011. The magistrate noted that Wright had a positive drug test in August of 2011, but a negative one in September of 2011. The magistrate also noted that K.C.'s behavior had improved, but was still an issue since at that time, K.C. had been suspended from school for punching a teacher. Based upon Wright's unwillingness to follow the case plan and address the issues, the magistrate denied her motion for in-home visitations. The magistrate also approved the modified case plan. The trial court adopted the magistrate's decision on November 9, 2011.

{¶7} On October 6, 2011, the Agency filed a motion requesting that Wright be held in contempt for not following the case plan by 1) failing to work with the family aid, 2) failing to allow the Agency access to all rooms in her home for inspection, 3) failing to have a source of income, 4) failing to take random drug screens when requested and failing the one she did take, and 5) failing to follow the recommendations of her psychologist or attend counseling. A show cause hearing was scheduled for February 29, 2012, regarding Wright's failure to comply with the court ordered case plan. At the hearing, Wright admitted violating the case plan by refusing a drug test and by testing positive. The magistrate decided that Wright was in contempt of court. The trial court adopted the magistrate's decision on April 16, 2012.

{¶8} On December 9, 2011, the GAL filed a motion to suspend visitation. The motion was based upon K.C.'s negative reactions prior to and following his visit with Wright on Tuesday. The GAL indicated in his affidavit that K.C.'s worst days for behavior were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He indicated that K.C. would even wet the bed on those days and that K.C. was very concerned that his mother would learn that he had been in trouble at school. In addition, K.C. had been suspended from school for attempting to choke a teacher. On December 8, 2011, K.C. had been admitted to St. Rita's Medical Center for making suicidal statements. During the visits, Wright usually did not interact with K.C. The trial court granted a temporary order suspending visitation ex parte on December 14, 2011, with a full hearing scheduled for February 29, 2012. At the hearing, K.C.'s teacher testified that since the visits were suspended, K.C.'s behavior had dramatically improved. Previously K.C. had been bullying students, acting out, and refused to do his school work. His behavior had been violent at times. Since the visits ceased, he had been completing his school work and had been helping other students. The family aide testified that Wright usually ignored K.C. at the visits and any interaction was not positive. K.C.'s only request upon learning that the visits were ceased was if the court would give him permission to get his hair cut now.[3] The magistrate's decision recommended suspending the visitation with K.C. and further stated that K.C. should be allowed to get his hair cut, but left that choice up to the foster parents. The trial court adopted the magistrate's decision on April 16, 2012.

{¶9} On February 13, 2012, the Agency filed a Motion for Permanent Custody of K.C. The motion alleged that Wright had failed to comply with the case plan to substantially remedy the conditions of the home and has repeatedly withheld medical treatment and food from K.C. The parties stipulated to the report of Dr. Thomas L. Hustak ("Hustak"), a forensic psychologist, regarding the psychological evaluation of Wright. The evaluation was completed in April of 2011. It was filed with the court on June 26, 2012. Hustak's report indicated that Wright claimed that it was K.C.'s behavior that caused the Agency to become involved with her family. She claims that the landlord called the Agency because K.C. would hit his siblings, urinated on the carpets, left bowel movements in the vents of the house, and refused to brush his teeth. Report, 4. Wright minimized her responsibility for the Agency's involvement by claiming that her caseworkers "had an attitude against me." Report, 5. Wright's idea for discipline involved physically striking K.C. Id. The mental status examination indicated that Wright has some difficulties with concentration. Report, 6. Her composite IQ was determined to be 72, which was below average. Report, 7. Her verbal score of 68 was "quite low, placing her in the 'lower extreme' category suggesting that 98% of the population scores higher than [Wright] and she has the verbal age of a 10 year old." Id. Hustak noted the following regarding Wright's adaptive behavior.

The results of this assessment showed that [Wright's] independent functioning in most areas was adequate. Exceptions included strong underarm odor and wearing clothes that were not properly cleaned. She apparently is appropriately mobile and has a telephone but she has no independent means of transportation. Other areas of independent functioning are adequate.
[Wright's] physical development apparently shows no major difficulties. Her economic activity shows that she apparently does not use banking facilities but purchases her own clothing. Her speech sometimes exhibits halting and irregular interruptions but otherwise is reasonably developed. Social language development is lacking. She doesn't talk sensibly when interacting with CSB workers and they find it difficult to reason with her. Her self-direction is also lacking in that she needs encouragement to complete tasks, has little ambition, and her movement when observed by [the Agency] workers seems to be sluggish and slow. She becomes easily discouraged, needs encouragement to complete things that are assigned to her, and unfortunately does not always maintain self-control over her behavior. She doesn't respond to others in a socially acceptable manner and demonstrates significant impairment in the area of social behaviors. Specifically, when interacting with CSB she has used threatening gestures, has thrown objects, exaggerates stories of interaction with CSB workers, appears to manipulate others to get them in trouble, and has difficulties following instructions.
When she does not get her way, she becomes upset, does not pay attention to instructions, hesitates for long periods before doing the tasks, and frequently does the opposite of what is requested. She resents those in authority, is disruptive, and tends to repeat things when asked questions.

Report 8-9.

{¶10} Hustak administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2 ("MMPI-2") to Wright. The results of the MMPI-2 indicated that Wright has problems with anyone who has power over her. Report, 10. Her response to relationships is to become aloof and cold in an attempt to advance herself at the expense of others. Report, 11. This profile on the MMPI-2 is indicative of one with a severe personality disorder. Id. Wright's disorder has led to paranoid thinking. Id. People with profiles like Wright are likely to have angry outbursts that will be blamed on others. Id. Wright also is suspicious of other's motives and believes that she would be fine if people were not plotting against her. Report, 12. Wright's profile also indicated a borderline score on the schizophrenia scale. Id. Hustak determined that the prognosis for Wright is poor because from her perspective, "everything is caused by someone else other than the things that she herself does or fails to do." Id. Although there was no indication of psychotic or antisocial behavior, Wright's unusual thinking does interfere with her social interactions. Report, 13.

{¶11} Due to the indications of personality disorder issues, Hustak administered the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory - III ("MCMI-III") to assess Wright's functioning. Report, 14. The MCMI-III indicated that Wright has traits of a compulsive personality disorder. Id. This is exhibited through perfectionism in her decision making and completion of tasks. However, due to her limited intellectual functioning, she is not capable of achieving perfectionism in her choices. Report, 15. "[I]n some ways, one could conclude that she is not very good at embracing her desire to be compulsive." Id. Wright views the world as rigid and becomes upset by her own indecisiveness. Id To repress her thoughts of inadequacy, Wright creates positive thoughts of herself even if they are contradicted by the evidence. Id The positive aspects of the MCMI-III were that there was nothing to suggest that Wright suffered from anxiety, alcohol dependence, post-traumatic stress, borderline thinking, schizophrenia, depression, or a delusional disorder. Report, 16.

{¶12} In his conclusion, Hustak determined that a likely diagnosis for Wright would be "Personality Disorder NOS which takes into account the fact that she possesses traits and symptoms of the three personality types noted above in various combinations to account for her problematic behavior." Report, 17.

Unfortunately, this personality combination makes it very difficult to have [Wright] address problems when she is convinced that she does not have those problems and/or that the problems she sustains are caused by other people. When questioned about how these situations transpired with her children in regard to the concerns expressed by [the Agency], [Wright's] explanations were quite poor and offered little substance for understanding why things have gotten so out of control. * * *
While it is true that no scientific predictions can be made with any degree of absolute certainty about the future, one does need to evaluate risks for problems as they arise. At the time of her evaluation, [Wright] had significant limitations that would appear to place her children at risk. If she could follow all of the guidelines listed above, it would still be difficult to conclude that all of those risks would be eliminated unless clear evidence could be presented to professionals that a systematic and safe treatment plan with supervision, cleanliness, and safety could be adequately provided by [Wright] in her home environment. Frankly, the probability of this happening would be considered fairly low because her cognitive limitations are static (not changeable) whereas the personality configurations may be more dynamic (subject to change depending upon her willingness to do so).

Report, 17, 20.

{¶13} On July 24, 2012, the parties stipulated that a transcript of Jennifer Cunningham's ("Cunningham") testimony from the February 29, 2012, hearing would be admitted without objection. Cunningham had been K.C.'s teacher since January 2011, at the alternative school he attended. She testified that when K.C. first was placed in the school after poor behavior at Lima City Schools, he would just leave the classroom or the building. Ex. 7, 2. He would also hit, punch, and/or kick people. Id. at 2. Eventually K.C. settled into the school and his behavior improved. Id. at 3. Before visits ceased in December of 2011, the faculty had a difficult time getting K.C. to even enter the school building without arguments. Id at 5. K.C. would yell at the teachers, run around the building, push people, and/or kick people. Id This behavior was repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday. Id at 5-6. By Thursday, K.C. had settled into a normal routine. Id 6. K.C. told Cunningham on approximately three occasions that Wright had either not appeared for visits or that she had said something at the visit to make him angry. Id At the end of December, K.C. was suspended for 10 days for assaulting a staff member and a police officer. Id at 7. Since his return to school in January, K.C.'s behavior was dramatically different, with no discipline for approximately two months. Id Cunningham described K.C. as being sociable, reasonable and helpful since he returned to school in January of 2012. Id at 8. Cunningham also testified that K.C. told her he was angry that Wright would ignore him at the visits. Id at 9. During the timeframe that K.C. was having visits with Wright, he would not do his school work and he would attempt to pick fights with the other students. Id . at 10.

{¶14} The GAL filed his report on July 24, 2012. The GAL noted that he had reviewed the Agency's file on multiple occasions, reviewed the court records, reviewed Wright's Facebook page, reviewed Wright's psychological evaluation, spoken with the care providers and had multiple visits with K.C. GAL Report, 1-2. The GAL noted that although K.C. continued to have some behavioral issues, he has improved. Id. at 2. He noted that K.C. does not like changes to his routine. Id. Once the visits with Wright were terminated, K.C.'s behavior showed marked improvement. Id The GAL indicated that he had spoken to K.C. and that the child indicated that he did not want to return to Wright. Id Instead, K.C. indicated that he wished to remain with his current foster parent. Id Thus, the GAL recommended that Wright's parental rights be terminated and permanent custody be granted to the Agency. Id at 4.

{¶15} On July 31, 2012, the parties stipulated to the admission of the testimony of Ashley Mertz ("Mertz") from the February 29, 2012, hearing. Mertz was the foster mother of K.C.'s siblings. She testified that she observed K.C. at the visits between the siblings. Ex. 8, 6. She also testified that at the visits K.C. speaks with her and is really pleasant. Id at 7. She has not observed any inappropriate behavior between the children. Id

{¶16} The hearing on the Motion for Permanent Custody was held from August 1-3, 2012. At the beginning of the hearing, the parties stipulated to the admission of Exhibit 2, the deposition of Erica Croft ("Croft") which was completed on June 28, 2012. Croft was K.C.'s kindergarten teacher. At the beginning of kindergarten, K.C. was developmentally delayed in his speech and fine motor skills. Ex. 2, 8. The school tried to enroll K.C. in speech and occupational therapy to address those issues, but Wright refused. Id. at 9. Wright refused to sign an Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") so that K.C. could receive assistance. Id. at 10. Wright considered the services to be a "special ed" class and refused to allow K.C. to be placed in one. Id. at 12. Croft attempted numerous times to explain to Wright that this was not a "special ed" class, but just support services. Id. Wright did not change her position. Id. As a result, K.C. did not progress well academically. Id. at 13. In addition, he had behavioral issues that were not addressed by Wright.

Q. Can you tell me about some of those behavioral issues?
A. He did not get along well with the other kids, didn't have any friends in the class, he would be physical with them, he would be – he would yell at them kind of thing. One time, he took off all of his clothes and ran out of the building, just kind of bizarre behaviors. He ate a urinal cake. I mean, just very odd behaviors. The other children found him to be very odd.
Q. Did you discuss these behavioral concerns with Ms. Wright?
A. Yes.
Q. And what was her response when you would discuss the concerns with her?
A. A lot of the times she would blame us, and tell us we didn't know what she was – we were talking about, and we didn't understand her child. She would write long, rambling letters, accusing us of picking on [K.C.], or not understanding her and what her life is, so * * *.
Q. Was she helpful to you in letting [K.C.] know these behaviors were not appropriate?
A. No. No. Id. at 13-14. Wright also was not good about watching K.C.'s personal hygiene.
Q. Was there any concern with [K.C.'s] hygiene?
A. Yes.
Q. In what way?
A. The other children and I noticed that [K.C.] did have a smell on him all the time. He would either smell of urine or just – it would be just like a dirty, dirty smell. And our school nurse at the time, we had a shower, so she would sometimes clean him up and get him in a clean change of clothes when it just got unbearable in the room, where the other kids couldn't function because they were, I can't stand to sit next to him. And so that just made it even more difficult for him to make friends and to become a part of the class. And his hair was also, a lot of the times it would be this big poof on the top of his head that would just have all kinds of things in it. And –
Q. What types of things?
A. Well, it would – he had – they kind of looked like pieces of foam, a lot of the time was in there, and then there would be food in there, and it was just kind of – just part of it would be poofy, part of it would be matted. He just had a very odd appearance.
Q. Did you have discussions with Ms. Wright about the concerns with the cleanliness of –
A. Yes.
Q. [K.C.'s] clothes? And what did she tell you?
A. She told us that it was none of our business.
Q. Did you have discussions with her about the concern of the odor that he had?
A. Yes.
Q. And what did she tell you?
A. It was none of our business.
Q. * * * With respect to those conversations, was there improvement in his hygiene or clothing after you had them.
A. No. It think it was almost in defiance, it got worse, that she let him – because sometimes it would be braided, and then she'd really let the hair ...

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