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In re T.W.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District

August 5, 2013


Appeal from Allen County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division Trial Court No. 2011 JG 28532

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. 1-12-48, 1-12-49, and 1-12-51. On January 29, 2008, T.W. was born to Wright and Antwain Liles.[1] On April 29, 2010, T.W. was placed under the protective supervision of Allen County Children Services ("the Agency"), along with her three siblings, K.C., G.W., and M.W. She was removed from the home under an emergency shelter care order on December 17, 2010. Temporary custody of T.W. was granted to the Agency at that time. On March 21, 2011, a new emergency shelter care order was signed and temporary custody of T.W. was continued with the Agency.[2] The trial court granted the shelter care request due to Wright's failure to address the medical, dental and 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 T.W. was a dependent and neglected child. The Agency alleged in the complaint that Wright had failed to comply with her mental health service plan, and that Wright failed to maintain a clean and safe environment for T.W. 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.

{¶3} 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. Wright had mental health needs that needed to be addressed. Wright did not follow the case plan and obtain the necessary counseling for herself 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 T.W. 's environment was unsafe and found her to be a dependent child. The dispositional hearing was held on May 20, 2011. Temporary custody of T.W. was granted to the Agency. The trial court adopted the decisions of the magistrate concerning adjudication and disposition on July 5, 2011.

{¶4} Wright, on August 18, 2011, filed a motion for in-home visitation with T.W. and her 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. 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.

{¶5} 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.

{¶6} On December 9, 2011, the GAL filed a motion to suspend visitation. The motion was based upon T.W.'s negative reactions prior to and following her visit with Wright on Tuesday. The GAL indicated in his affidavit that T.W.'s worst days for behavior were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He indicated that T.W. had begun hitting and smacking her dolls again since visits had resumed and discussed the term of "bad money" referring to the sale of drugs. Before going to the visits, T.W. would express her desire to stay home. After the visits, T.W. would use profanity. The child also would wake up with nightmares and exhibit behavioral issues. These issues were not present during the time that Wright's visits with T.W. were suspended. The trial court granted a temporary order suspending visitation ex parte on December 14, 2011, with a full hearing scheduled for February 29, 2012.

{¶7} At the hearing, T.W, 's foster mother, Ashley Mertz ("Mertz") testified that when T.W. came to live with her, she "liked using the 'F' word a lot." Feb. 29, 2012, Tr. 3. T.W. had an attitude. Tr. 3. In addition, T.W. would strike her baby dolls by slapping it or hitting it against the wall while saying "shut the 'F' up." Tr. 3, 10. During the nights, T.W. would wake up screaming "Mommy, don't hurt me" three times a week. Tr. 4. This type of behavior was most prevalent after the visits. Tr. 4. On the way home from visits, T.W. would kick the seats and throw whatever she had in her hand, and would use the "F" word frequently. Tr. 6. When the visits were suspended while Wright served her jail sentence, the behavior improved. Tr. 4. Mertz testified that since the visits were suspended in December of 2011, T.W.'s language has improved. Tr. 6, 9. Additionally, T.W. does not seem as tense and her overall behavior is better. Tr. 11. The magistrate's decision recommended suspending the visitation with T.W. The trial court adopted the magistrate's decision on April 16, 2012.

{¶8} On February 13, 2012, the Agency filed a Motion for Permanent Custody of T.W. The motion alleged that Wright had failed to comply with the case plan to substantially remedy the conditions of the home. 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 G.W. 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.

{¶9} 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.

{¶10} 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.

{¶11} 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.

{¶12} 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 T.W. GAL Report, 1-2. The GAL noted that T.W. has "flourished" in her foster placement, "especially after visitation with [Wright] was terminated." Id. at 2. The GAL indicated that T.W. was too young to express her opinion as to whether she wanted to return to Wright. Id. The GAL then recommended that Wright's parental rights be terminated and permanent custody be granted to the Agency. Id at 4.

{¶13} On July 31, 2012, the parties stipulated to the admission of the testimony of Mertz from the February 29, 2012 hearing at the hearing for the motion for permanent custody. 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. Croft testified that when they had meetings with Wright and her social worker, she was polite to her social worker, but hostile to the school faculty. Id at 24.

{¶14} The first live witness was Judith Lester ("Lester"), who is a licensed social worker. Lester started working with K.C., G.W. and Wright in January of 2007. Tr. 14, 17. One of the reasons for her participation was to help Wright learn more positive parenting practices. Tr. 16. Despite numerous meetings with Wright, she was frequently angry and out of control, so no real progress was made. Tr. 23. Lester only worked with Wright for two months because Wright was not cooperative. Tr. 25. Out of the ten home visits scheduled, Wright only was home and willing to work with Lester for five of the visits. Tr. 25. Lester provided Wright with instruction on how to use anger management techniques, but Wright just insisted they did not work. Tr. 28-29. Rather than continuing to work on the anger issues, Wright just quit trying. Tr. 30. Lester had never met T.W. as her services were terminated before T.W. was born.

{¶15} Lester also testified as to the condition of the home. On January 24, 2007, Lester visited the home and smelled the odor of something rotting throughout the home. Tr. 30. On February 8, 2007, there was a new puppy in the home and no one had cleaned up the dog feces from the living room floor. Tr. 31. Wright did then try to pick up some of the feces while Lester was at the home. Tr. 31. The smell was so strong that it was noticeable outside of the home. Tr. 42.

{¶16} Kelly Huffman ("Huffman") testified from her work with the family as a therapist. Huffman worked with Wright while doing family counseling for K.C. Tr. 47. Huffman tried to teach Wright how to model anger management techniques. Tr. 61. Wright did learn some skills and demonstrated that she could use them. Tr. 62. However, the higher Wright's frustration level, the less likely she was to use the techniques. Tr. 62. Her ability to use the anger management techniques was inconsistent over time and she eventually reverted back to her old methods of handling stress and frustration. Tr. 63.

{¶17} The next witness presented by the Agency was Kelly Smith ("Smith"), who was the family aide assigned to Wright by the Agency. Smith's job is to help the parents accomplish their case plan goals. Tr. 115. Smith worked with Wright from December 2006 until June 2007. Tr. 117. Smith attempted to help Wright secure employment, learn parenting skills, and follow through with counseling. Tr. 119. Wright did complete the Parent Project Junior Class. Tr. 122. Although Wright would apply the parenting techniques she was taught in the short-term, she did not use them over the long-term. Tr. 126. Smith would meet with Wright sometimes in the home, but usually Wright was short tempered and uncooperative at those times. Tr. 126. Wright did not think she needed assistance with her parenting. Tr. 127.

{¶18} Smith testified that Wright had court ordered counseling sessions for K.C. and Wright. Tr. 130. Smith helped Wright to calendar her appointments. Tr. 130. In addition, Smith offered to provide transportation to and from the counseling appointments. Tr. 130. Wright still continued to be inconsistent in her attendance. Tr. 130. When questioned about counseling, Wright frequently lied about scheduling appointments, having rides, and even claiming to have attended sessions that she did not attend. Tr. 131.

{¶19} Smith also attempted to help Wright seek employment. Tr. 131. Smith gave Wright tips on job searching, provided transportation to potential employment places, helped Wright complete applications and even provided a voucher for Wright to purchase clothes for an interview. Tr. 132. After a month, Wright declined the services claiming that she could get a job, but it was not her priority at that time. Tr. 132. The family was allegedly being supported by Wright's Met check of less than $100 a month and the money Wright made by selling candy bars. Tr. 133.

{¶20} Smith testified that she frequently was in the home. Tr. 136. She was concerned about the conditions in the home. Tr. 136.

The odor in the home was very overwhelming. It was a strong urine and feces smell. The carpet, you couldn't even tell like what, the carpet was so matted down with stains and different things on the carpet. There was a bad problem with cockroaches. There was a little bit of clutter, the few times that I saw the kitchen, dirty dishes, clutter, garbage overflowing.

Tr. 136-37. When Smith addressed the issue of the home with Wright, she was told it was none of her business. Tr. 137. Eventually, Wright moved from the home on Hope Street to a different one on Catalpa. Tr. 139. When Wright first moved into the new home, it was nice. Tr. 141. The Agency provided Wright with new mattresses for K.C. and G.W. to replace the soiled one. Tr. 141. They also provided her with a refrigerator, stove, table, pots, and pans. Tr. 141. The house on Catalpa remained in good condition for less than a month. Tr. 141. Within that time, the cockroaches and the odor returned. Tr. 142. After that, Wright was uncooperative at the home visits and would not allow Smith to look at the other rooms, including the children's bedrooms. Tr. 142. Eventually, Wright would deny Smith access to the home and would not even let her see the children. Tr. 143. This behavior continued despite Smith's reminder to Wright that she was there due to a court order. Tr. 143.

{¶21} Smith testified that Wright could be cooperative and open. Tr. 143. However, any time Smith tried to approach her about a concern, Wright would shut down because she did not want to hear about it. Tr. 144. The Agency attempted to help with the housing issue by providing cleaning supplies. Tr. 145. Smith personally volunteered to help her clean the home. Tr. 145. Smith made chore lists to help Wright learn what needed to be done and gave Wright tips on how to keep the house clean. Tr. 145. Wright was not receptive and declined the offer of help with the cleaning. Tr. 146. At times, the house would be cleaner, but the condition would not be maintained. Tr. 146.

{¶22} Eventually, Smith's services as a family aide to Wright were terminated for noncompliance by Wright. Tr. 154. Smith testified that although she tried on numerous occasions to speak with Wright concerning the issues, Wright did not recognize there were problems. Tr. 154. Smith further testified that in her opinion, there was nothing more the Agency could have done to help Wright due to Wright's lack of compliance. Tr. 155.

{¶23} Christin Winter ("Winter") testified that she is a family aide for the Agency who had been working with Wright from May 2009 until July 2012. Tr. 168. At the beginning, Wright was living in a home on Woodward Avenue. Tr. 197. Winter was originally assigned to work with Wright on maintaining a safe and appropriate home. Tr. 168. Over time, her goals expanded to include helping Wright to find employment and teaching her about child developmental levels so that Wright's expectations would be reasonable. Tr. 170. At the beginning, Wright was cooperative with her, but she became less so as time passed. Tr. 170-71. Winter testified that if she gave Wright a task, such as cleaning out the refrigerator before the next visit, Wright would agree to do it, but never did. Tr. 171. Eventually, Winter had to bring another party with her on home visits for safety reasons. Tr. 171. When the caseworker would go with Winter, Wright was not receptive to anything the caseworker said. Tr. 174. Winter testified that Wright would tell the caseworker she was not allowed to speak, would ask her to leave, or would insist that the caseworker only speak to Winter and that Winter relay the information. Tr. 174. Wright would frequently ask Winter questions that only the ...

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