Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
Case No. 14-D000069
P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, for Warren
County Children's Services
C. Kaspar, Guardian Ad Litem Kim Schneider, for H.D. Maxwell
D. Kinman, for R.G.-M.
1} Appellant, R.G.-M., the biological mother
("Mother") of H.D., appeals from the decision of
the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division,
granting permanent custody of H.D. to appellee, Warren County
Children's Services ("WCCS"). For the reasons
outlined below, we affirm.
2} The child at issue, H.D., was born on December
25, 2014. At the time of her birth, H.D. tested positive for
opiates, hydrocodone, and tramadol. After giving birth,
Mother also tested positive for cocaine and admittedly
consumed alcohol before going to the hospital to visit H. D.
on December 29, 2014. H. D. was subsequently placed in the
temporary custody of WCCS on December 31, 2014. Several
months later, on March 4, 2015, H.D. was adjudicated an
abused and dependent child. Mother did not dispute this
3} Over a year later, on June 29, 2016, WCCS filed
for permanent custody of H. D. The juvenile court held a
hearing on WCCS' motion on October 5, 2016. At this
hearing, Mother admitted that she was a drug addict who
suffered from substance abuse and mental health issues.
Following this hearing, on October 11, 2016, the juvenile
court granted WCCS permanent custody of H.D.
4} Mother now appeals from the juvenile court's
decision to grant permanent custody of H.D. to WCCS, raising
two assignments of error for review.
5} Assignment of Error No. 1:
6} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY ALLOWING THE STATE OF
OHIO TO PRESENT HEARSAY EVIDENCE OVER THE APPELLANT'S
7} In her first assignment of error, Mother argues
the trial court erred by admitting alleged hearsay statements
regarding the events leading up to H.D.'s placement in
foster care and the results of Mother's drug screens.
Mother also argues the trial court erred by allowing the WCCS
supervisor overseeing her case to testify instead of
requiring testimony from the actual caseworker assigned to
her case. According to Mother, this constitutes blatant
hearsay that prejudiced her and prohibited her from receiving
a fair hearing. We disagree.
8} Hearsay is inadmissible in hearings on motions
for permanent custody. In re W.R., 12th Dist.
Fayette No. CA2011-08-016, 2012-Ohio-382, ¶ 22. However,
it is well-established that as the fact-finder, a juvenile
court is presumed to have considered only properly admissible
evidence unless the record affirmatively demonstrates
otherwise. In re A.F., 12th Dist. Butler No.
CA2011-12-233, 2012-Ohio-2958, ¶ 33. Therefore, the
admission of hearsay evidence in permanent custody cases,
even if error, is not considered prejudicial unless it is
shown that the juvenile court relied on this improper
evidence in making its decision. In re KB., 12th
Dist. Butler Nos. CA2014-02-042 thru CA2014-02-044,
2014-Ohio-3654, ¶ 83.
9} After a thorough review of the record, we find
many of the alleged hearsay statements Mother complains of do
not fall within the rule against hearsay as provided by
Evid.R. 802, but instead constitute either nonhearsay
statements as defined by Evid.R. 801 or constitute one of the
many exceptions to the rule against hearsay as provided by
Evid.R. 803. Again, as the trier of fact, the juvenile court
is presumed to be able to disregard improper testimony.
Regardless, even if the challenged testimony could be
considered inadmissible hearsay, Mother cannot show that she
suffered any resulting prejudice resulting from its
admission. This is particularly true here considering Mother
herself testified regarding most, if not all, of the alleged
improper statements when called to testify before the
10} For instance, although there was testimony that
Mother submitted several positive drug screens, Mother
herself testified that she tested positive for cocaine,
nevertheless maintaining that the result was a false
positive, and that she continues to struggle with substance
abuse and mental health issues. Mother, a self-proclaimed
drug addict, also acknowledged that she had consumed alcohol
prior to visiting H.D. in the hospital shortly after the
child's birth. Mother further admitted to abusing her
prescribed Ritalin and Fen-Phen. In addition, Mother
acknowledged that she had been charged with several offenses
since H.D. was removed from her care, as well as an incident
where the SWAT team was called to her house after she
barricaded herself inside, actions that resulted in Mother
being placed on a 72-hour hold in a mental health facility.
Therefore, even assuming the complained of testimony was
inadmissible hearsay improperly ...