Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette
FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
Case Nos. AND20150248, AND20150249, AND20150250, and
Wollscheid, guardian ad litem.
Melissa S. Upthegrove, for appellant, C.D.
C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, Sean M.
Abbott, for appellee, Fayette County Children Services.
1} Appellant, the biological mother of J.D., E.P.,
B.D., and CD. ("Mother"), appeals a decision of the
Fayette County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division,
granting permanent custody of Mother's children to
appellee, the children services division of the Fayette
County Department of Job and Family Services ("the
agency"). For the reasons detailed below, we affirm.
2} In May 2015, the agency filed complaints alleging
that J.D., E.P., B.D., and C.D. ("the children")
were neglected and dependent and sought temporary custody.
The complaints alleged that Mother was unable to provide for
the children's basic needs and that she was abusing
drugs. The juvenile court granted temporary custody of the
children to the agency. The agency then placed the children
with a foster family.
3} The court held an evidentiary hearing on the
allegations in July 2015. The state dismissed the counts
related to neglect but presented evidence on dependency. The
evidence showed that Mother had visible track marks on her
arm when contacted by agency workers. Mother refused to let
the workers inside her home. Mother checked herself into a
drug treatment facility and left the children with neighbors.
However, the neighbors could not manage the children. The
children, who were between five and twelve years old,
exhibited behavior indicating that they had been raising
themselves. The court noted the fathers of J.D. and E.P
failed to appear at the hearing, B.D.'s father was
deceased, and that C.D.'s father appeared and admitted to
his child's dependency. Following the hearing, the court
found that the children were dependent and continued
temporary custody with the agency. Mother did not appeal the
findings of dependency.
4} In July 2015, the agency filed Mother's case
plan, which sought to reunify Mother with the children. The
plan required Mother to secure counseling for mental health
concerns, address her heroin addiction through an inpatient
drug treatment program, obtain and maintain stable housing,
and attend parenting classes. Mother did not sign the case
5} The court held a status hearing in February 2016.
The evidence submitted at the hearing indicated that Mother
had minimal telephone contact with the agency since the
initial removal hearing. Mother had not offered the agency
proof of housing. Nor had Mother shown proof of attending
drug counseling or parenting classes. The court noted that
Mother had been visiting her children regularly beginning in
November 2015 and that the visits went well. The court
continued temporary custody with the agency.
6} Mother's last visit with the children
occurred in February 2016. Mother failed to appear for a
status hearing in August 2016. Later that month, the agency
moved for permanent custody.
7} In November 2016, Mother moved to reinstate
visitation. The court granted that request.
Nonetheless, Mother did not visit with the children. The
children's guardian ad litem filed a report recommending
that the court grant permanent custody to the agency.
8} At the permanent custody hearing in January 2017,
Mother's counsel moved to withdraw from representing
Mother, or alternatively, to continue the hearing date.
Counsel explained that she had very limited contact with
Mother, that Mother had failed to appear for an appointment
before the hearing, and that counsel had not been provided
with documents and the identity of witnesses until the day of
the hearing. Mother explained to the court that she had been
in a women's shelter and was not able to meet with her
attorney. The state objected to any continuance, noting that
Mother had previously failed to attend numerous court
hearings on the case. The court denied these requests and
commenced the hearing.
9} Mother's agency caseworker testified that she
had only seen Mother in person at court appearances and had
minimal other contact with Mother. Mother gave the caseworker
two pieces of paper on the day of the permanent custody
hearing that appeared to indicate that Mother attended
classes at a behavioral center. Mother also presented the
caseworker with a letter from the Social Security
Administration indicating that she received around $700 in
monthly benefits. The caseworker was never able to visit
Mother's residence as Mother twice cancelled scheduled
10} Mother testified that her lack of communication
with the agency was because the caseworker always wanted to
discuss adoption. She explained that she was at a behavioral
center for four months while the case was ongoing and that
she was currently taking parenting classes and receiving
counseling. She did not exercise visitation with the children
because she did not want to cause them to suffer emotionally.
However, Mother admitted that she had "no good
reason" not to have visited her children following her
release from a hospital in or around February 2016.
11} Mother stated that when her visits were
reinstated by the court in November 2016, she was undergoing
inpatient care. Later, visitation center employees told her
that she would have to wait one month before they could
schedule a visit. She confirmed that she was ...