Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull
from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile
Division, Case No. 2015 CH 00060.
M. Kowalski, (For Appellant).
Porter Collins, Trumbull County Children Services Board, (For
Sherman Miles, P.O. (Guardian ad litem).
R. WRIGHT, J.
Appellant, Catherine Houston, appeals the juvenile
court's judgment terminating her parental rights to her
biological son, K.M. She challenges the manifest weight of
the evidence; contests the denial of her motion to continue
the final hearing; and argues the motion for permanent
custody was premature. We affirm.
K.M. was born July 19, 2006. At some point during early
childhood, his biological father died in an automobile
accident. Until September 2013, K.M. lived with appellant and
other relatives in Pennsylvania. Before September 2013,
appellant developed a drug habit and was convicted of
multiple criminal offenses, including prostitution and
burglary. She was ultimately sentenced to prison.
Appellant, therefore, arranged for her friend, Tammie Hobart
to take custody of K.M. and raise him at her Trumbull County,
Ohio home. This arrangement was approved by a Pennsylvania
K.M. lived with Hobart until November 2015 when she
voluntarily relinquished custody to appellee, the Trumbull
County Children's Services Board, because she could no
longer control him. K.M. was prone to angry outbursts and was
physically threatening to others. One month later, the trial
court deemed K.M. to be a dependent child and placed him in
appellee's temporary custody.
K.M. was diagnosed with disruptive mood dysregulation and
placed into a secured care unit where he received daily
counseling for over ten months. It was soon discovered that
both appellant and Hobart were anger triggers, since he could
not understand why neither wanted to care for him. At the
beginning of treatment, K.M. could not function in a family
setting and was having difficulty in school. However, as his
treatment progressed, his outbursts decreased and,
ultimately, he began visiting a foster family on weekends.
During this time frame, appellant was moved from state prison
to a half-way house near Pittsburgh. The half-way house
provided appellee with programs to help reunite her with K.M.
once her prison term was concluded. To this end,
appellee's caseworker developed a three-point plan
requiring appellant to: (1) complete a drug treatment
program; (2) take parenting classes; and (3) establish
regular communication with K.M.
During the first six months of 2016, appellant made some
progress on all three objectives. She interacted with K.M.
over the phone and visually via the internet. In July 2016,
they met and had a supervised visit on K.M.'s tenth
birthday. Although appellant gave K.M. multiple gifts, she
did not spend much time with him. Instead, she talked mostly
with a friend who attended the party, while K.M. played with
another child. K.M.'s counselor concluded, therefore,
that appellant's relationship with K.M. remained shallow.
Approximately ten days after the birthday visit, appellant
escaped from the half-way house and remained a fugitive from
the authorities for over two months. Twice during this
period, she telephoned K.M. at the secured care unit, but was
precluded from speaking with him until she talked with the
caseworker. New charges of prostitution and providing false
identification to a police officer were brought against her
when she was apprehended in October 2016. Moreover, after
returning to the Pennsylvania correctional system, she
admitted she had again taken illegal drugs.
When K.M. was informed of appellant's actions, he
initially thought his caseworker and counselor were
misleading him as to her whereabouts, leading to outbursts.
When told that appellant had been apprehended, K.M. informed
his counselor that although he still wanted to see his mother
periodically, he no longer wished to be reunited as a family
because he did not want to be disappointed again. K.M. later
repeated these sentiments to a court magistrate during an
While appellant was a fugitive, appellee moved the trial
court for permanent custody of K.M., asserting that ...