Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Fairfield
IN THE MATTER OF: N.C. -L.
appeal from the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas,
Juvenile Division, Case No. 2015-AB-037
FCCPS ANGELA J. SEIMER Guardian Ad Litem SHERRIE HUSTEAD.
Defendant-Appellee JACOB P. ORT EDWARD ITAYIM.
JUDGES: Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, P.J. Hon. W. Scott Gwin, J.
Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.
Appellant-mother Brianna C. appeals the November 23, 2016 and
February 1, 2017 Judgment Entries of the Fairfield County
Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, which terminated
her parental rights with respect to her minor child,
N.C-L (b. Jan. 22, 2007) and granted permanent
custody of the child to appellee, Fairfield County Child
Protective Services (hereinafter
and Procedural History
On February 27, 2015, FCCPS filed a complaint alleging that
N.C-L. and N.C.  were dependent children. The initial
concerns of FCCPS for Mother at the time N.C-L. and N.C. were
removed from the home included concerns over reports that the
children were witnessing Mother engage in sexual activity;
concerns over reports that N.C-L. had been a victim of sexual
abuse by a man Mother was associating with; concerns
regarding mental health issues with respect to N.C-L. and
Mother's ability to adequately address these issues;
concerns that N.C-L's mental health issues were leading
to violent and aggressive behaviors; concerns regarding
possible drug use by Mother; and concerns over Mother's
ability to safely and effectively parent her children.
On May 7, 2015, N.C-L. and N.C. were found to be dependent
children and were placed in the temporary custody of FCCPS.
On December 3, 2015, FCCPS filed a complaint alleging that
N.R., a younger sibling of N.C-L. and N.C. was a dependent
On February 16, 2016, N.R. was found to be a dependent minor
and was placed in the temporary custody of FCCPS.
On May 9, 2016, FCCPS filed a Motion requesting permanent
custody of N.C-L, N.C. and N.R. On August 9, 2016, Mother
filed a letter with the Court that was treated as a Motion
for New Counsel, indicating that the mother did not like the
manner in which her assigned counsel was handling her case.
The Motion was denied by the court. A pretrial on the Motion
for Permanent Custody was held on September 21, 2016. The
trial on the Motion was held on both October 31 and November
Prior to the beginning of the trial, Mother's attorney
made an oral motion to withdraw as counsel. Counsel
referenced Mother's previous request to have new counsel.
Counsel indicated that he and the Mother did not agree with
respect to certain issues. Counsel did indicate that he was
prepared to proceed with the hearing. Mother indicated that
she was not opposed to counsel's request to withdraw. The
court denied the motion on the record. The trial court found
that at the time of the request, the motion for permanent
custody had been filed for over five months. Additionally,
more than two months had passed since Mother's motion for
new counsel was denied. The court reasoned that counsel and
Mother had many opportunities to bring any new issues to the
court's attention, including at a pre-trial conference
held September 21, 2016. Instead, the request was made on the
day of the hearing prior to the start of trial.
Mother completed a psychological evaluation on August 27,
2015 with Dr. Elizabeth Flum of Integrated Services for
Behavioral Health. The report of the evaluation was issued on
September 25, 2015 and admitted as State's Exhibit A.
Mother was approximately two hours late for the appointment
with Dr. Flum. Mother called near the time the appointment
was to begin and indicated that she would be late due to
As the appointment went on, Mother appeared to become
impatient with the process, and gave very quick answers to
many of the questions. Dr. Flum noted this might have been a
result of fatigue do to the lateness of the hour brought on
by the transportation issues.
Mother stated during the evaluation that N.C-L. was
"kind of traumatized -not right in the head, doesn't
want to be around me."
Mother was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder,
Bipolar Disorder, and Self-defeating Personality Disorder
with Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Traits and
Dependent Personality Traits.
Dr. Flum's treatment recommendations for Mother included
targeted psychopharmacologic medications with appropriate
consultation; individual counseling focusing on mental health
issues; a need to increase Mother's understanding of her
thoughts and feelings; short-term group therapy; and
parenting education including developing and practicing
appropriate discipline techniques.
In particular, Dr. Flum noted Mother's struggles with
anger and anger outbursts, and noted that she would be
concerned if these issues were not addressed.
With respect to Mother's mental health counseling, Mother
worked primarily with Sharon Bankes of New Horizons beginning
sometime around September 2015. A treatment plan was
developed to address anger, coping skills, conflict
resolution, and any other related issues. Originally, the
goal was to schedule weekly sessions. Mother did not attend
these sessions consistently. From September 2015 to March
2016, approximately eight or nine sessions were scheduled.
Mother attended only approximately five or six sessions.
Mother canceled three sessions.
Beginning March 2016, the treatment plan included recommended
sessions every two weeks. From March 2016 to October 2016,
Mother participated in approximately eight individual
counseling sessions with Ms. Bankes. Mother cancelled or
otherwise failed to attend approximately seven sessions
during that time.
On approximately four separate occasions, Ms. Bankes had to
discuss with Mother the possibility that she would be
terminated from the program due to her attendance issues.
Mother acknowledged that she missed counseling appointments.
Mother indicated that she missed these for reasons including
transportation issues, conflicts with her work schedule, and
conflicts with training to receive her STNA license.
Ms. Bankes testified that Mother's inconsistent
attendance made it more difficult to accomplish goals in her
counseling, and at the time of the hearing, Mother had not
completed the program, and would need additional counselling.
Mother acknowledged that her counseling goals had not been
met as of the time of the hearing.
With respect to N.C-L's mental health counseling, N.C-L.
worked with Sharon Kuss of New Horizons. Ms. Kuss originally
began working with N.C-L. and Mother in 2014. However, after
multiple cancellations or lack of appearances at
appointments, the appointments were stopped.
In early 2015, Ms. Kuss again began to work with N.C-L Ms.
Kuss wanted to address issues relating to N.C-L. being a
victim of sexual abuse, problems with anger outbursts and
making threats to others, and overall safety concerns.
Ms. Kuss developed a plan in which some sessions would be
attended by N.C-L. alone, some by Mother alone, and some by
N.C-L. and Mother together.
Individually, N.C-L. has made significant progress in his
treatment plan since his placement in foster care, and has
demonstrated improvements with respect to his mental health
and behaviors. These improvements have been limited by
Mother's inconsistency in attending appointments. Ms.
Kuss testified that it was important to have Mother present
at the sessions so long as the goal was reunification with
Mother often failed to attend scheduled sessions. On
approximately six occasions from October 2015 to October
2016, Mother missed a scheduled session.
On October 14, 2016, Mother attended a session with N.C-L.
Prior to that session, Mother had not attended a counseling
session with N.C-L. since July 2016 creating a gap of
approximately three (3) months.
N.C-L. was aware of the appointments in which Mother was
scheduled to attend, and would become angry and agitated when
Mother did not attend appointments. Additionally, Ms. Kuss
testified that N.C-L's behavior would get worse after his
Mother missed scheduled visitation sessions coordinated by
Mother indicated that she missed these appointments for
reasons including transportation issues, conflicts with her
work schedule and due to training to receive her STNA
When Mother did attend joint sessions with N.C-L, Mother had
difficulty demonstrating appropriate communication with him.
Ms. Kiss testified that Mother was at times "very
harsh" in her interactions with N.C-L. During one
specific session, Mother was encouraged to listen carefully
to N.C-L. so she could adequately address his concerns.
Mother had difficulty listening to him and was unable to
adequately assure him that she would make appropriate
FCCPS asked Mother to maintain stable employment and
financial stability. Mother was referred to the Bureau of
Vocational Rehabilitation, the S.T.A.R.S program, and to
Worknet to assist Mother with this goal.
Mother testified that she is looking for employment, but
would also like to pursue Social Security Income for various
physical issues as well as mental health issues including
anxiety and depression. Mother's testimony with respect
to her employment since the children were removed included
many references to various employers and employment agencies,
but Mother did not have a strong grasp of her employment
history during this period.
Mother was unemployed at the time of the trial. Her most
recent employment was a job she had from sometime in August
2016 until sometime in September 2016. Prior to that time,
Mother had a one-month gap in employment from July 2016 until
August 2016. Mother worked for approximately one week in July
Understandably, Mother did not work for a time before and
after the birth of N.R. in November of 2015. However, Mother
did not return to work after his birth until approximately
April 2016. Mother did not have custody of N.R. during this
At one point, Mother left a job with Anchor Hocking in
Lancaster after approximately one week. Mother has had
consistent large gaps in employment since the children were
removed from the home.
At the time of the hearing, Mother testified that she was
looking for employment. She testified that she would prefer
to work in Lancaster, but is exploring employment options in
Columbus as well. Mother does not have a valid driver's