Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Delaware
Civil appeal from the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 11-10-2080-AB
For Plaintiff-Appellee CAROL HAMILTON O'BRIEN Delaware County Prosecutor By Katheryn Munger
For Defendant-Appellant LYNNE K. SCHOENLING
Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Sheila G. Farmer, J.
(¶1} Appellant T.P. ("Father) appeals from the March 6, 2013 judgment entry of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, terminating his parental rights and granting permanent custody of G.P. to Delaware County Department of Job and Family Services ("DCDJFS").
Facts & Procedural History
(¶2} Appellant is the father of G.P., born August 17, 2010. C.B. is the mother of G.P. On October 17, 2011, DCDJFS filed a complaint of neglect and dependency with regard to G.P. The complaint alleged, in part, that G.P.'s parents were not providing him with proper medical attention and that G.P. had been in the hospital and diagnosed with non-organic failure to thrive. Further, that there were allegations of drug use by the parents at the home where G.P. was living. G.P. was placed in the temporary custody of DCDJFS on October 17, 2011 and was adjudicated a dependent child on January 12, 2012.
(¶3} DCDJFS established a case plan for Father on November 29, 2011. In the case plan Father was ordered to: (1) complete an alcohol and drug assessment and comply with all treatment recommendations made, (2) complete adult treatment court ("ATC") assessment and, if appropriate, participate in ATC, (3) submit to random drug screens and breathalyzers, (4) complete a mental health assessment and comply with all treatment recommendations, (5) attend parenting classes, (6) obtain stable housing and maintain it as verified by a lease, (7) obtain employment and provide pay stubs to DCDJFS, (8) sign releases of information and (9) allow the caseworker into the home at least once per month.
(¶4} The trial court held a dispositional hearing on February 21, 2012. Father was ordered to provide a urine sample prior to leaving court for a drug screen and his supervised visitation was increased to two hours per week. Father completed a drug screen that screened negative with an instant test. After a case status review hearing on March 15, 2012 and concerns about drug use of the parents, the trial court ordered Father to provide a drug screen prior to his visitation each week and ordered the visitation go forward with a clean instant drug screen. At a case review hearing on April 26, 2012, the trial court noted Father had not shown up for visitation with G.P. that morning and ordered Father to complete a drug screen prior to leaving the courthouse. Father did not provide a drug screen prior to leaving the courthouse.
(¶5} DCDJFS filed a motion for permanent custody of G.P. on August 31, 2012. DCDJFS alleged Father failed to initiate or complete case plan objectives and failed to visit G.P. since April 12, 2012. A trial was scheduled on DCDJFS' motion for permanent custody on December 5, 2012. Father did not appear for the hearing. After a request for continuance from counsel for Father, the trial on permanent custody was held on February 12, 2013.
(¶6} At the trial, Alba Rosansky ("Rosansky"), the ongoing case worker from DCDJFS, testified she has been involved in the case since February 1, 2012. In reviewing the notes from the prior caseworker, Rosansky confirmed the prior caseworker gave Father contact information for Franklin County entities that could complete a mental health assessment, alcohol and drug assessment, and where Father could attend parenting classes. When Rosansky began working with the family, she reviewed the existing case plan with the family, including the requirements that Father obtain stable housing and employment, ATC assessment, alcohol and drug assessment, mental health assessment, attend parenting classes, and submit to random drug screens. Prior to meeting with the parents, Rosansky reviewed the case plan and determined it was appropriate for the case. Rosansky continually had problems contacting Father throughout the case. In November of 2012, Father was unsure of his phone number and, prior to November of 2012, Father gave Rosansky a phone number that was disconnected. Father moved several times during the pendency of the case and failed to notify Rosansky of any of his moves.
(¶7} Rosansky testified Father did not visit G.P. from February 2012 to April 12, 2012. Father did visit G.P. on April 12, 2012. Rosanksy described the visit as "appropriate." When Father came for the visit, Rosansky provided him with a list of organizations and referrals for services and treatment providers even though Father never requested these referrals. These referrals included Maryhaven, where Father could complete his drug and alcohol assessment and mental health assessment. She provided Father with a list of available services and hours of operation for Maryhaven. She further provided Father with information about services offered by Central Ohio Mental Health and Delaware One-Stop Employment job network.
(¶8} Rosansky attempted to visit Father's residence at least once per month from February 2012 to August of 2012 and some months she went to Father's home to attempt contact three times per month. In May of 2012, Rosansky visited an apartment on Livingston Road to conduct a home study. She had concerns about the home because there was no furniture or clothes for G.P. and she provided a list of items that needed to be fixed or completed for the home study to be completed. Rosansky mailed the letter to the parents at the Livingston address, but Father never contacted her to discuss the letter or complete the items on the list. During this home visit, Father informed Rosansky he wanted his case transferred to Franklin County. Rosansky told Father to contact his attorney to file the appropriate motion. She further informed Father that Maryhaven had a branch in Franklin County and Father told her he was aware of the Maryhaven branch in Franklin County. Rosansky attempted to visit Father and Mother at this address in July 2012 and left her business card, but received no response. After August of 2012, Rosansky waived the monthly visits because of allegations of domestic violence by C.B. between herself and Father.
(¶9} Father called Rosansky in November of 2012 and went to the agency when Rosansky was not in the office. Father did not leave a phone number and, when Rosanksy called the number she had for C.B. and spoke to Father, he told her he did not know his phone number. During the call, Rosanksy and Father set up a visitation for Father with G.P. on November 15, 2012. Father did not appear for the visitation and did not call to cancel the visit. Rosansky attempted another home visit on December 17, 2012 at the home of Father's mother. Father told Rosansky he was late for an appointment and had to leave immediately. Rosansky told Father to contact her for visitation with G.P., however Father never called Rosansky regarding visitation.
(¶10} Rosansky stated Father's attorney informed her Father's lack of visitation and failure to complete assessments was the result of lack of transportation. Rosanksy first noted that Father never informed her transportation was a problem because Father did not communicate with her. Further, Rosansky testified DCDJFS does not provide transportation vouchers, but noted Medicaid would provide a cab for drug and alcohol and mental health assessment appointments. She stated she does not call to make the assessment appointments and it is Father's responsibility to make his assessment appointments to comply with the case plan. Rosansky confirmed Father lives in Franklin County, but stated the permanent custody case of G.P. is in Delaware County because the parents were living in Delaware County when G.P. was removed from the home.
(¶11} While Father did not have any positive drug screens during the pendency of the case, Rosansky stated there was a continual lack of cooperation by Father with the drug screens. Rosansky did not observe any evidence of drug use during the May 2012 home visit.
(¶12} Rosansky testified Father did not complete the case plan because he did not: complete a drug and alcohol assessment; attend parenting classes; obtain stable housing; provide proof of employment or pay stubs; complete a mental health assessment, complete an ATC assessment; complete random drug screens; and visit G.P. on a consistent basis. Father signed a limited release of information for some of his records. Father's mother provided Rosansky with the family medical history after Rosansky requested the information from Father. Rosansky does not believe DCDJFS could offer any additional services for the family that have not already been suggested.
(¶13} Rosansky testified G.P.'s foster home is clean, appropriate, and is a loving home. While Bob Stephens, Father's mother's boyfriend, requested a home study and expressed an interest in custody of G.P., Stephens did not take the necessary steps to complete the home visit. Rosansky believes it is in G.P.'s best interest that the trial court grant permanent custody to DCDJFS because Father has had the "same issues" since the beginning of the case, such as lack of communication, lack of parenting classes, lack of visitation with G.P., instability in housing and employment, and continued concerns about drug use.
(¶14} Lynn Stacy ("Stacy") is a supervisor at DCDJFS. Stacy testified DCDJFS originally became involved with the family in October of 2011 after concerns of medical neglect and failure to thrive. Stacy observed C.B. at the permanent custody hearing for G.P.'s half-sister and stated C.B. described domestic violence incidents between her and Father. Stacy stated DCDJFS gave Father information about services in Franklin County so he could more easily complete his case plan goals. Stacy confirmed the caseworker is generally required to have face-to-face contact with the parents each month. However, this contact can be waived when it could be unsafe for the caseworker. In this case, Stacy stated an exception was made to the general policy after August of 2012 due to C.B.'s allegations of domestic violence by Father. Stacy testified Father's mother's boyfriend, Bob Stephens, requested a home study and expressed an interest in pursuing custody of G.P. Stephens started a home study, but then moved. He started another home study and then never called the caseworker to follow through with the completion of the home study.
(¶15} Father testified that prior to G.P.'s removal from the home, he worked while C.B. took care of the children and C.B. oversaw G.P.'s nutrition. He was close with G.P. prior to his removal from the home. Father confirmed he and C.B. were living in Delaware County when G.P. was removed from the home. He was not concerned with G.P.'s low weight because Father himself was small as a child. Father stated they took G.P. to the doctor regularly. Father lost his Medicaid card after G.P. was taken away and if he had temporary or permanent custody of G.P., he could get assistance from children's services and other cash assistance to provide a stable home for G.P. Father does not remember receiving a list of services available to him in Franklin County. When asked why he did not complete his alcohol and drug assessment or mental health assessment, Father stated he does not have a medical card and Maryhaven has a five-month wait for appointments. Further, ATC has a six-month wait and he did not have the funds to pay for such assessment. He stated he thought he put his name on the Maryhaven waiting list and thinks his name "should come up in a couple months." Father himself did not put his name on any other waiting list because "I don't have the money to pay a doctor to tell me I'm all right." However, Father is unsure if his name is on any waiting list other than Maryhaven because he had his mother call to discuss setting up his appointments. Father was unaware he had medical benefits through Franklin County until August 29, 2012. Father does not understand why several of his drug screens came back as "diluted" and believes he complied with the random drug screen portion of the case plan. He left court after the April 26th hearing without completing a drug screen because his ride could not stay and Father could not walk home.
(¶16} Father testified he is doing painting and maintenance work under the table. He is living at his mother's boyfriend's house and there is a bed for G.P. in the home. He did not call Rosansky to let her know about his change of addresses because she would just tell him to call his lawyer. Father testified he was not able to visit G.P. because he did not have transportation to visits and no one would drive him to Delaware County from his home in Franklin County. Father asserted DCDJFS was only interested in helping C.B. and never told him buses went to Delaware County from his home in Franklin County. On cross-examination, Father was asked why he could not transfer to a bus that would take him to visits in ...