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In re A.B.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

August 5, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: A.B., et al.


D. Vincent Paris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, Judith A. Brant, for appellee, Clermont County Department of Job & Family Services

Julie D. Steddom, for appellants, B. & A.H.

Ryan L. DeBra, for A.H.

R. Aaron Maus, for A.B.

Deborah L. Suckow, guardian ad litem



{¶ 1} Petitioners-appellants, the maternal grandparents (Grandparents) of A.B., A.B., and A.B., appeal a decision of the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, denying their motion for custody of the three children.

{¶ 2} Grandparents' daughter is the mother (Mother) to the three children in question. Mother has never been married to the children's father (Father), but the two lived together for several years. During this time, Father was convicted of importuning Mother's 11-year-old niece, and was classified a Tier I sexual offender as a result of the importuning conviction. Accusations also arose that Father was sexually abusing the three children, who were six, five, and 18 months old.

{¶ 3} The children first became involved with the Clermont County Children's Services Agency (the agency) when the youngest child was seen at Children's Hospital for bruises on her face and a broken clavicle. The agency substantiated the abuse claim, and determined that the child's injuries had been caused by Mother. Criminal charges were brought against Mother, and she was eventually convicted and sentenced to community service for her actions. The children were removed from Mother and Father's home, and placed with Grandparents.

{¶ 4} Despite Father's importuning conviction. Tier I sexual classification designation, and the allegations of sexual abuse. Mother refused to make Father leave the home. A safety plan was instituted by the agency, which included parenting classes and other therapy for Mother and Father. Once Mother's family convinced Mother that she would only get the children back by making Father leave the home. Mother "kicked" him out. Father was permitted to have supervised visitation with the children. Father also submitted to a diagnostic assessment as part of a sex offender treatment program.

{¶ 5} On March 5, 2010, the agency filed a complaint with the juvenile court, and alleged that the children were dependent. The agency stated that it had recently received results of Father's diagnostic assessment, and that the results were "very concerning" because Father minimized his actions and stated that he did not need treatment even though the results indicated that Father was in need of intensive therapy. Mother also expressed her belief to the agency that Father had not sexually abused the children and stated that she wanted him to move back into the home. Based on the potential for the children to be exposed to Father and Mother's lack of willingness to protect the children, the agency asked the court to adjudicate the children dependent.

{¶ 6} The juvenile court held a hearing on the agency's complaint and granted temporary custody of the three children to the agency. A guardian ad litem (GAL) was appointed to represent the children's interest, and she expressed concerns regarding Mother's unwillingness to protect the children. Mother told the GAL that she did not want to be separated from Father, and that her 11-year-old niece was not "an innocent party" regarding the importuning charge against Father.

{¶ 7} At the time of the initial adjudication, the oldest child had not been enrolled in school because Mother and Grandmother did not have a car and believed that walking the child to the bus stop a few blocks away from the child's home was "too difficult." As a result, when the child was finally enrolled in school she was behind in her education and was forced to repeat kindergarten.

{¶ 8} When the children were placed with Grandparents, they expressed frustration with the children because they were difficult to care for. For example. Grandmother told the children's GAL that the children throw fits, the oldest child smacks the younger children for no reason, and that the youngest child "kicks and screams and squeals" when her diaper or clothes are changed. The GAL expressed concerns that the 18-month-old child's actions during diapering and clothing changes were indicative of "prior inappropriate touching" by Father.

{¶ 9} The GAL noted that Grandmother extolled the virtues of physical discipline for over 15 m inutes during one visit, and that she was frustrated that she and Grandfather were not permitted to spank the children as a condition of the agency's policy regarding child discipline. Grandmother also stated that she "could see how child abuse could be committed, " but later added that she would never cross the "fine line" between discipline and abuse.

{¶ 10} The GAL also noted that Grandmother has several physical ailments that prohibit interaction with the children. The GAL noted that Grandmother is "inactive" and that "getting around is difficult for her." The GAL also noted that instead of interacting with the children, Grandmother sits and "directs" the children from her chair. Grandfather works two jobs, second and third shift, and sleeps during the day.

{¶ 11} When the GAL visited with Grandparents a second time. Grandmother expressed that she was adjusting to having the children in the home. The oldest child had been diagnosed with ADD and was also prescribed medication to help her sleep, which she could not do before because of nightmares.

{¶ 12} On May 11, 2010, the juvenile court held another hearing, and declined to return the children to Mother. Mother tried to commit suicide a few days later, and spent several days in the hospital as a result. From 2009 forward. Mother lived with Grandparents on a regular basis.

{ΒΆ 13} The child agency performed a home study on Grandparents to determine if placing the children there on a more permanent basis was an option. However, Grandparents failed the home study. Several concerns were expressed by the agency as well as representatives from Child Focus, who came into the home to assist Grandparents' adjustment to caring for the children. The concerns expressed included Grandparents not keeping medication locked in an inaccessible location from the children, not having a bed for the ...

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