Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
Case No. 14-D000048
Joseph Auciello, guardian ad litem.
and Duning, John C. Kaspar, for appellant, W.T.
P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kirsten A.
Brandt, for appellee, Warren County Children Services.
1} Appellant, the biological father of M.T., appeals
from a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas,
Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of M.T. to
appellee, Warren County Children Services ("WCCS"
or "the agency"). For the reasons set forth below,
we affirm the juvenile court's decision.
2} On October 3, 2014, WCCS filed a complaint
alleging that M.T., born January 8, 2012, was a dependent
child. The complaint indicated that M.T. resided with Mother
and Father, who were unable to provide M.T. with stable
housing. The court held a shelter care hearing on the same
day and placed M.T. in the temporary custody of WCCS. WCCS
then placed M.T. with a foster family.
3} On December 26, 2014, Mother, Father, and WCCS
agreed to certain factual stipulations resulting in the court
finding M.T. a dependent child. The same month, the court
adopted a case plan prepared by the agency. The goal of the
case plan was reunification; it required Mother and Father to
(1) obtain employment and stable housing, (2) stay drug and
alcohol free, (3) comply with case management services
including various parenting classes, and (4) maintain
communication with WCCS and respond within 24 hours.
4} Mother completed a parenting class but did not
complete any other case plan requirements. She did not
maintain contact with WCCS or the child's guardian ad
litem ("GAL"). She did not provide the agency with
any means of contacting or locating her. Mother visited with
M.T. in December 2014 and then never visited her again.
5} Unlike Mother, Father made some progress towards
completing his case plan objectives. He completed a drug and
alcohol assessment in March 2015, a parenting class in
February 2016, and a bonding class. Father also visited M.T.
during weekly two-hour supervised visits. On average, he
missed about one visit per month but almost always called to
6} During these visits, Father and M.T. exhibited a
bond and would engage in playing, which was mostly directed
by M.T. They would also watch videos on Father's phone.
While the visits were mostly positive, social workers and
M.T.'s GAL were concerned by the lack of verbal
interaction between Father and M.T.
7} Father made no progress on other aspects of his
case plan. He failed to maintain contact with WCCS and the
GAL. His case workers often had no means of locating or
communicating with him. And in the two years that this
dependency case was pending, Father never resolved his issues
8} On August 8, 2016, WCCS moved for permanent
custody of M.T. In its motion, WCCS alleged that M.T. had
been in WCCS's temporary custody for more than 12 months
of a consecutive 22-month period, that both parents had
abandoned M.T., and that a grant of permanent custody to WCCS
was in M.T.'s best interest.
9} The court set the permanent custody motion for
trial on November 7, 2016. On November 3, 2016, the GAL filed
a written report recommending that the court grant permanent
custody to WCCS. Father objected to the report because it was
filed less than seven days before the trial. The court
overruled Father's objection.
10} At the permanent custody hearing, the juvenile
court heard testimony from WCCS employees, the GAL,
M.T.'s foster parent, and Father. A WCCS caseworker
testified that she was assigned to the parents' case from
May 2015 through August 2015. During that time, she attempted
to contact or locate Mother, but was unsuccessful. She also
repeatedly attempted to contact or locate Father. However,
she was only successful in making contact if she went to
Father's scheduled visitations with M.T. There, she would
ask Father to contact her later to arrange a home study.
Father never followed up with the caseworker. The next time
the caseworker saw Father she asked why he did not contact
her and he responded that he was too busy because he was
"working a lot."
11} The caseworker reported that Father tested
positive for oxycodone following a random drug screen
administered by WCCS. Father told the caseworker that he
received oxycodone from a hospital visit because of a
toothache. He showed the caseworker paperwork to that effect
but the paperwork did not indicate he received oxycodone.
Even so, the caseworker testified that drug abuse was not the
agency's primary concern with Father. Instead, the agency
was most concerned about Father's inability to resolve
12} The caseworker also testified that the agency
was concerned that Father was continuing to have contact with
Mother who by that time had clearly abandoned her daughter.
Father told the caseworker he did not know Mother's
location. However, the agency was aware that Father and
Mother were observed together in pictures posted on Facebook.
13} The caseworker testified that in the two years
that Father visited with M.T., visitations never increased in
time or quantity and were always supervised. Father attended
most of his visits but would usually call and cancel one
visit a month. The only time Father failed to appear at a
visit without calling to cancel was in the month preceding
the permanent custody hearing.
14} Finally, the caseworker testified that prior to
the filing of the permanent custody motion, no relatives ever
came forward to attempt to take custody of M.T. However,
after the agency filed the motion, Mother's sister
contacted them to inquire about taking custody. WCCS
performed a home study but determined the sister was