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In re A.M.A.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District

September 3, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF: A.M.A., ADJUDGED DEPENDENT CHILD. [HEATHER M. MARTIN - APPELLANT].

Appeal from Crawford County Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division Trial Court No. C2125114

Brian N. Gernert for Appellant

Michael J. Wiener for Appellee, Crawford County Dept. of Job & Family Services

Geoffrey L. Stoll, Guardian Ad Litem

OPINION

SHAW, J.

(¶1} Mother-appellant, Heather M. Martin ("Heather"), appeals the December 13, 2012 judgment of the Crawford County Juvenile Court granting the "Motion to Award Legal Custody and Close Case" filed by the Guardian Ad-Litem ("GAL") assigned to the case. As a result of the trial court's ruling, Heather's parents (the "Martins") were awarded legal custody of Heather's child, A.M.A., and the child welfare case with the Crawford County Department of Job and Family Services (the "Agency") was closed.

(¶2} On June 18, 2012, Heather gave birth to A.M.A. On June 27, 2012, the Agency filed a Motion for Ex Parte Orders and Shelter Care Hearing, requesting the trial court grant the Agency emergency temporary custody of A.M.A. In support of the motion, the Agency attached a letter, dated June 27, 2012, that it received from A.M.A.'s Pediatrician, Dr. Howard Eckstein. In this letter, Dr. Eckstein explained that he had recently seen A.M.A. during an office visit and felt that she was "at a high risk for neglect." (Doc. No. 1). Dr. Eckstein specifically stated that A.M.A. had lost weight since her discharge from the hospital and when he asked Heather to bring the child back in two days to check her weight, she refused. Dr. Eckstein described in the letter Heather's erratic and irrational behavior during the office visit and on the phone after the visit. He also indicated in the letter that Heather had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and was not being treated. Dr. Eckstein closed the letter by expressing concern for A.M.A.'s "well-being, safety, and nutritional status." (Id.).

(¶3} The Agency also attached the affidavit of one of its caseworkers, Brandi Gandert, who stated that she had a telephone conversation with Dr. Eckstein on June 27, 2012, in which he articulated his concerns for A.M.A.'s well-being. In addition, the Agency filed a complaint alleging one-week-old A.M.A to be a neglected child pursuant to R.C. 2151.03(A)(2).

(¶4} The record also indicates that A.M.A.'s older sibling was removed from Heather's care and placed with the Martins due to concerns that Heather was unable to provide for the child's basic needs.

(¶5} The trial court granted the Agency emergency temporary custody of A.M.A. and appointed a GAL to the case.

(¶6} On June 28, 2012, a shelter care hearing was held. In its July 3, 2012 Judgment Entry, the trial court stated that "the Court was informed that all the parties present concurred and stipulated that probable cause does exist to believe that the child was in a neglected condition, and that removal from the mother's home was necessary and appropriate to protect the child from immediate harm from the condition of the surroundings, to provide adequate care for the child, and to protect the best interest and welfare of the child." (Doc. No. 14). The trial court subsequently awarded the Agency temporary custody of A.M.A. and Heather was afforded reasonable visitation.

(¶7} On July 16, 2012, the trial court held an adjudication hearing where Heather admitted to the allegations of neglect contained in the complaint, stipulated that sufficient evidence existed for an adjudication of neglect, and consented to the adjudication of A.M.A. as a neglected child.

(¶8} On July 27, 2012, Heather, pro se, filed a "Motion for a More Definite Statement (Bill of Particulars), " claiming that she did not understand the allegations of neglect in the complaint and requesting "a more definite statement (bill of particulars) than what was offered in the complaint." (Doc. No. 19).

(¶9} On the same day, Heather's court-appointed counsel filed a motion to withdraw from her representation, claiming that Heather has been filing her own pleadings without consulting him and asserting that a "total breakdown in communication and cooperation has occurred between undersigned counsel and Heather M. Martin deteriorating the attorney-client relationship." (Doc. No. 20). ...


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