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In re E.F.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

September 6, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: E.F. MINOR CHILD

         Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 2016 JCV 00279

          For Appellee BRANDON J. WALTENBAUGH STARK COUNTY JFS

          For Appellant BERNARD HUNT

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          Wise, John, J.

         {¶1} Appellant-Father S.F. appeals the judgment of the Stark County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, awarding permanent custody of his minor child E.F. to appellee Stark County Department of Job and Family Services.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

         {¶2} On April 1, 2016, SCJFS filed a complaint alleging the dependency and/or neglect of E.F. (DOB 3/29/2016). Appellant is the biological father of E.F. The allegations of the complaint centered on the agency's concerns that the child's parents were unable to provide the child's needs directly at the hospital, along with the parents' history with Summit County Children Services including involuntarily losing permanent custody of a previous child, lack of follow through with case plan services in the past, and continuing deplorable home conditions.

         {¶3} On April 4, 2016, the trial court found that probable cause existed for the involvement of SCJFS and placed the child into its emergency temporary custody.

         {¶4} On June 15, 2016, SCJFS deleted the allegation of neglect, and the trial court found E.F. to be a dependent child and placed her into the temporary custody of SCJFS. The trial court approved and adopted the case plan and found that SCJFS had made reasonable efforts to prevent the need for the continued removal of the child from the home.

         {¶5} The case plan proposed by SCJFS and adopted by the trial court asked Appellant-father to complete a Parenting Evaluation at Northeast Ohio Behavioral Health, attend Anger Management Services through Melambrosia, undergo a complete mental health evaluation, complete Goodwill parenting classes after the mental health evaluation, and obtain employment and secure stable housing. (T. 1 at 6-7). Concerns were also raised regarding Appellant's ability to intervene and protect the child from her mother due to the mother's limitations and mental health issues.

         {¶6} On October 14, 2016, the trial court reviewed the case. The trial court found that Appellant-father was diagnosed with several mental health issues, had not followed through with mental health counseling or medication, and needed help with basic parenting skills. The trial court approved and adopted the case plan and found that SCJFS had made reasonable efforts to prevent the need for the continued removal of the child from the home. The trial court also found that no compelling reasons existed to preclude a request for permanent custody.

         {¶7} On January 20, 2017, SCJFS filed a motion seeking permanent custody of the child. In its motion, SCJFS alleged, among other things, that the child could not and should not be placed with Appellant within a reasonable amount of time, Appellant had his parental rights terminated pursuant to R.C. §2151.353, R.C. §2151.414, or R.C. §2151.415 with respect to a sibling, and permanent custody was in the child's best interest.

         {¶8} On January 24, 2017, SCJFS filed an amended motion seeking permanent custody of the child. The amended motion was substantively equivalent to the original motion.

         {¶9} On February 17, 2017, the Guardian ad Litem for E.F., Ms. Valerie Anderson, submitted a report recommending that E.F. be placed into the permanent custody of SCJFS. Specifically, Ms. Anderson noted that it was "absolutely imperative that SCJFS (be) granted permanent custody", and that Appellant "simply do(es) not have the parental skills necessary to keep (E.F.) well cared for and safe", and Appellant "has a problem maintaining employment."

         {¶10} On February 21, 2017, the trial court again reviewed the case. The trial court found that Appellant was not employed and had failed to engage in parenting classes, anger management classes, or other services as required by his case plan. The trial court approved and adopted the case plan and found that SCJFS had made reasonable efforts to prevent the need for the continued removal of the child from the home. The trial court again found that no compelling reasons existed to preclude a request for permanent custody.

         {¶11} On March 22, 2017, the trial court heard evidence on the motion seeking permanent custody of E.F. (T. 1 at 4-105). At the hearing, SCJFS presented evidence regarding Appellant-father and the minor child. (T. 1 at 5-64). Caseworker Vicki Mitchell testified that Appellant had not fully completed his case plan, nor had he significantly reduced the risk he posed to E.F. (T. 1 at 5-22). Specifically, Caseworker Mitchell testified that Appellant did not address his mental health issues, refused to comply with medication, did not complete anger management classes, did not complete parenting classes, was not employed, did not have appropriate housing, and struggled with basic parenting skills such as changing a diaper. (T. 1 at 7-19). Ms. Mitchell also testified that Appellant had previously lost permanent custody of a child. (T. 1 at 6). Ms. Jennifer Fire from Goodwill Parenting testified that appellant never began parenting ...


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