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In re M.J.P.L.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

August 5, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: M.J.P.L.

APPEAL FROM CLINTON COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case No. 20113143

Linda Cebula, guardian ad litem

Holly Simpson, for appellant, R.L.

Susan Zurface Daniels, for W.L.

Richard W. Moyer, Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney, William C. Randolph, for appellee, Clinton County Department of Job and Family Services

OPINION

HENDRICKSON, P.J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, the biological mother of M. J.P.L., appeals a decision of the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of the child to a children services agency.

{¶ 2} M.J.P.L. was bom on November 21, 2011. A week after the child's birth, Clinton County Children Services filed a complaint alleging M.J.P.L. was dependent. The complaint alleged that the agency had prior involvement with the mother, as the mother's three older children had previously been removed from her home and placed in the temporary custody of the agency. The complaint alleged that at the time of M. J.P.L.'s birth, the parents were living with a person who had a pending court case involving allegations of drug abuse in the presence of children. After the agency filed the dependency complaint, the parents left the county with M.J.P.L. and were living in a Pike County homeless shelter.

{¶ 3} After a hearing on December 21, 2011, the court found that the family had a history with the agency, there were multiple concerns with the parents' lack of care for M.J.P.L., the parents resided with the child in the home of a known drug abuser, and the parents removed the child from the jurisdiction of the court without notice to children services as they were obligated to do. Based on these findings, the court placed the child in the temporary custody of the agency.

{¶ 4} M.J.P.L. was adjudicated dependent on March 1, 2012, and a case plan was prepared for the parents with reunification as the goal. Reunification was unsuccessful, as the parents failed to visit the child, did not engage in case plan services, and failed to obtain stable housing or employment. On June 6, 2012, the mother was imprisoned in Dayton Correctional Institute with a scheduled release date of March 23, 2013. The agency filed for permanent custody of M.J.P.L. on August 28, 2012.

{¶ 5} The trial court held a hearing on the permanent custody motion on February 14, 2013 and issued a decision granting permanent custody to the agency on February 22, 2013. Appellant now appeals the court's decision and raises one assignment of error for our review:

{¶ 6} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT A LEGALLY SECURE PLACEMENT COULD NOT BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT A GRANT OF PERMANENT CUSTODY TO CCCS.

{¶ 7} 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.Sd 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.Sd 510, 520 (12th Dist.).

{ΒΆ 8} 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 ...


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