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In re M.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 28533

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 1-12-50. On March 26, 2010, M.W. was born to Wright and an unidentified father. On April 29, 2010, M.W. was placed under the protective supervision of Allen County Children Services ("the Agency"), along with his three siblings, K.C., G.W., and T.W. He was removed from the home under an emergency shelter care order on December 17, 2010. Temporary custody of M.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 M.W. was continued with the Agency.[1] 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 M.W. was a dependent and neglected child.[2] 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 M.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 M.W.'s environment was unsafe and found him to be a dependent child. The dispositional hearing was held on May 20, 2011. Temporary custody of M.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 M.W. 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. 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 the negative reactions of M.W.'s siblings prior to and following the visits with Wright on Tuesday. The GAL indicated in his affidavit that although M.W. did not exhibit any of the negative behaviors of his siblings, he was only nineteen months of age and had been out of the home since he was seven months of age. The GAL stated that in his opinion, it would be best to cease M.W.'s visits with Wright as well to protect him from the harm caused to his siblings. 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, M.W, 's foster mother, Ashley Mertz ("Mertz") testified that when M.W. came to live with her, he was sick. Tr. 3. She testified that M.W. needed medication for asthma and acid reflux. Tr. 7. M.W. also suffers from sleep apnea and is being treated by Children's Hospital in Dayton. Tr. 26. She admitted that the visits did not seem to have any effect on M.W.'s behavior. Tr. 27. Based upon the negative affect on the older siblings, the magistrate's decision recommended suspending the visitation with all of the children, including M.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 M.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 M.W.. GAL Report, 1-2. The GAL noted that M.W. has "flourished" in his foster placement. Id. at 2. The GAL indicated that M.W. was too young to express his opinion as to whether he 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. ...

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