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In re D.G.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

August 15, 2013

IN RE: D.G. A Minor Child [Appeal by M.G., Mother]

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division Case No. AD-11916966

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Britta M. Barthol.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE, C.C.D.C.F.S. Timothy J. McGinty Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: Tammy L. Semanco Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Guardian Ad Litem Donald W. Ristity.

BEFORE: Blackmon, P.J., McCormack, J., and E.T. Gallagher, J.

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, P.J.

(¶ 1} Appellant M.G., [1] the mother of D.G., appeals from the order of the juvenile court that awarded permanent custody of her child to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS"). M.G. assigns the following errors for our review:

I. The trial court's decision to award permanent custody to CCDCFS was against the manifest weight of the evidence as it was not supported by clear and convincing evidence.
II. The trial court erred in granting the motion for permanent custody when there was an interested individual who could provide a legally secure alternative placement option for the minor child.

¶2} Having reviewed the record and pertinent law, we affirm the juvenile court's decision. The apposite facts follow.

(¶3} On July 18, 2011, based upon a referral of neglect, a CCDCFS intake worker went to a home where M.G. had been staying with her infant child, D.G. (d.o.b. 06/07/2011), and the alleged father, because her utilities had been disconnected and her home was inhabitable. On arrival, the intake worker observed that the home had no windows, no doors, and was generally unsafe.

(¶ 4} M.G. handed the infant to the intake worker and indicated that she could not take care of the child. The intake worker requested police assistance to escort mother and child to the agency for staffing. Upon arrival at the agency, and while the intake worker had taken D.G. to the second floor to discard his roach-infested clothes and car seat, M.G. left the building. M.G.'s whereabouts remained unknown until CCDCFS learned that she was incarcerated on two pending drug-possession charges.

(¶ 5} On July 19, 2011, D.G. was committed to the emergency temporary custody of CCDCFS. On September 22, 2011, CCDCFS filed a complaint for neglect, dependency, and for permanent custody to be vested in the agency. The complaint alleged, among other things, that M.G. requested the child's removal, alleged that she was addicted to crack cocaine, and that she was currently incarcerated pending two separate charges of drug possession.

(¶6} The complaint also alleged that M.G. had two other children that were removed from her care because of her substance-abuse challenges. One child had been committed to the permanent custody of CCDCFS, while the other had been placed in the legal custody of a relative. In addition, the complaint alleged that M.G. had not visited the infant since he had been in the temporary custody of CCDCFS.

(¶ 7} The complaint further alleged that Jason Collins and William Jones, two men that M.G. indicated might have fathered D.G., have failed to establish paternity, failed to support, and failed to visit the infant. The complaint alleged that both men have extensive criminal histories with periods of incarceration, and that neither have safe, suitable, or a stable home for D.G.

(¶8} On March 6, 2011, CCDCFS filed an amended complaint alleging that M.G. had been convicted of the two aforementioned drug-possession charges. The amended complaint also alleged that M.G. had visited with her son sporadically since he had been committed to the temporary custody of CCDCFS. On April 18, 2012, at an adjudicatory hearing, M.G. admitted the allegations of the amended complaint and D.G. was adjudged neglected and dependent.

(¶9} On November 8, 2012, CCDCFS filed a motion to remove Collins and Jones as parties to the case, because the two had been ruled out as biological fathers by genetic testing. The juvenile court granted the motion. On January 7, 2013, M.G. filed a motion to have D.G. placed in the permanent custody of an interested party as an alternative to reunification with her child. Following a hearing conducted on January 10, and 11, 2013, the juvenile court granted permanent custody of D.G. to CCDCFS.

Manifest Weight of Evidence

10} In her first assigned error, M.G. argues the trial court's decision to award permanent custody to CCDCFS was against the manifest weight of the evidence and was not supported by clear and convincing evidence.

11} It is well established that the right to parent one's children is a fundamental right. In re C.F., 113 Ohio St.3d 73, 2007-Ohio-1104, 862 N.E.2d 816, 1 28. Nevertheless, a government agency has broad authority to intervene when necessary for the child's welfare or in the interests of public safety. Id. at ¶ 28-29, citing R.C. 2151.01(A).

(¶ 12} The termination of parental rights is governed by R.C. 2151.414. In re M.H., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 80620, 2002-Ohio-2968, ΒΆ 22. R.C. 2151.414 sets forth a two-part test courts must apply when deciding whether to award permanent custody to a public services agency. R.C. 2151.414 requires the court to find, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) granting permanent custody of the child to the agency is in the best interest of the child under R.C. 2151.414(D), and (2) either the child (a) cannot be placed with either parent within a reasonable period of time or should not be placed with either parent if any one of the factors in R.C. 2151.414(E) are present; (b) is abandoned; (c) is orphaned and no relatives are able to take permanent custody of the child; or (d) has been in the temporary ...


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