Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile
Division, Case No. 2015JCC 00235.
Grist, (For Appellant Tiffany L. Spencer, Mother).
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).
COLLEEN MARY OTOOLE, J.
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.
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"). 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.
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. 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.
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.
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
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.
In September 2015, Mother and Father filed motions for legal
custody. However, both Mother and Father withdrew those
motions later that year.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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 ...