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In re L.M.L.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage

September 5, 2017

IN RE: L.M.L.

         Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 2015JCC 00235.

          Thomas Grist, (For Appellant Tiffany L. Spencer, Mother).

          Victor V. Vigluicci, Portage County Prosecutor, and Brandon J. Wheeler, Assistant Prosecutor, (For Appellee Portage County Department of Job and Family Services).

          Michael A. Noble, Lentz, Noble & Heavner, LLC, (For Appellees Mark and Brenda Wakefield).

          Richard C. Lombardi, Suite B, Ravenna, (Guardian ad litem).

          OPINION

          COLLEEN MARY OTOOLE, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Tiffany L. Spencer ("Mother"), appeals from the September 29, 2016 judgment of the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, ordering that her child, L.M.L., be placed in the legal custody of Mark and Brenda Wakefield ("the Wakefields"). Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

         {¶2} Mother is the biological mother of L.L.S., d.o.b. March 21, 2005, and L.M.L., d.o.b. March 7, 2007 (collectively "minor children").[1] This appeal, Case No. 2016-P-0069, involves L.M.L. Mother's companion appeal, Case No. 2016-P-0068, involves L.L.S. Mother's arguments in both appeals are the same. The biological father of the minor children is Ronald Lemin ("Father). Father is not a named party in either appeal.

         {¶3} On March 24, 2015, the minor children were removed from Mother's care, custody, and control after the Portage County Drug Task Force found a methamphetamine lab in the garage of their residence.[2] The next day, appellee, Portage County Department of Job and Family Services ("PCDJFS") filed complaints alleging that the minor children were abused, neglected, and dependent.[3]

         {¶4} Attorney Richard C. Lombardi ("GAL") was appointed as guardian ad litem and attorney for the minor children. The juvenile court also appointed separate counsel for Mother.

         {¶5} A shelter care hearing was subsequently held. The minor children were placed in the interim pre-dispositional custody of PCDJFS. On May 14, 2015, the minor children were found to be dependent.

         {¶6} A dispositional hearing was held on June 16, 2015. A case plan was agreed to and adopted. The minor children were placed in the temporary custody of PCDJFS.

         {¶7} In September 2015, Mother and Father filed motions for legal custody. However, both Mother and Father withdrew those motions later that year.

         {¶8} On December 14, 2015, the GAL filed a report indicating the following: he met with the parties at various times; he met and interviewed the minor children; he met and interviewed the maternal grandmother; he met, interviewed, and inspected the home of the Wakefields, the minor children's maternal uncle and aunt; he spoke with psychologists and counselors and reviewed reports; he met with Mother and Father; he attended Family Team Meetings; he interviewed Kevin and Lora Labbe ("the Labbes"), who are good family friends with Mother and have a very good relationship with the minor children, who have stayed at their home frequently and are a potential placement for L.L.S.; and recommended granting legal custody of L.M.L. to the Wakefields.

         {¶9} In addition, a December 14, 2015 case review reveals Mother scored an "8" on the risk re-assessment scale of abuse/neglect regarding her parenting of the minor children, i.e., an actual risk level of "high."

         {¶10} Following a monthly home visit by the caseworker and GAL, on March 2, 2016, PCDJFS filed a motion for adoption of permanency plan, to grant legal custody of L.L.S. to the Labbes (non-relatives) and L.M.L. to the Wakefields (relatives). As Mother was not in agreement with the plan, she filed another motion for legal custody on March 10, 2016. A week later, PCDJFS filed a motion for change of custody (regarding L.L.S. from the temporary custody of PCDJFS to the legal custody of the Labbes) and to terminate the case. The Wakefields filed a motion for legal custody of L.M.L.

         {¶11} On March 18, 2016, a semiannual administrative review was filed. That review revealed the following: Mother was not consistent with counseling; Mother and Father lack financial support for the minor children; Mother and Father have placed the minor children in unsafe situations and circumstances; Mother continues to make poor choices for herself and for the minor children; the minor children have been exposed to unsafe, unstable, and harmful environments; the minor children were directly exposed to being in the presence of a documented unsafe individual (Mother's boyfriend); and Mother lacks stable housing and has moved three times since the minor children were removed.

         {¶12} On May 12, 2016, the GAL filed a report indicating the following: Mother was reported, and did not deny, to be purchasing large amounts of Sudafed, a key component of manufacturing methamphetamines; Mother had been charged shortly before the raid at issue for obstructing official business and complicity to commit theft; the family residence was in disarray; the minor children were upset and crying; clothes and mattresses were scattered all over the floor; Mother continues to deny there was a meth lab in their garage; since Mother's oldest child was born in 2005, Mother had moved approximately 20 times; and Mother's last residence is a dump filled with the stench of dog manure. The GAL recommended that ...


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