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In re B.T.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

October 30, 2017



          Amy R. Ashcraft, P.O. Box 172, Seven Mile, Ohio 45062, Guardian Ad Litem Debra R. Rothstein, 10 Journal Square, 3rd Floor, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, for B.T.H. Mark W. Raines, 246 High Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, for appellant

          Carol A. Garner, 9435 Waterstone Boulevard, Suite 140, Cincinnati, Ohio 45249, Guardian Ad Litem for appellant

          Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, Michael Greer, Government Services Center, 315 High Street, 11th Floor, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, for Butler County Children Services


          M. POWELL, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, the biological mother of B.T.H. ("Mother"), appeals a decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of B.T.H. to appellee, the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services ("JFS" or "the agency").

         {¶ 2} In July 2014, JFS filed a complaint alleging that B.T.H. was a neglected, abused, and dependent child. The complaint alleged that Mother was living with B.T.H., age 10, in an unsanitary motel room. The complaint further alleged that Mother had mental health issues and an extensive history with the agency. Finally, the complaint alleged that Mother asked B.T.H. to "have sex" with a boy who was living at the motel.

         {¶ 3} JFS' complaint requested an ex parte emergency order granting temporary custody of B.T.H. to her aunt or to JFS. The juvenile court found probable cause to believe that B.T.H.'s removal was necessary to prevent immediate or threatened physical or emotional harm. Based on this finding, the court issued an ex parte emergency order, which placed B.T.H. in the temporary custody of the aunt.

         {¶ 4} In August 2014, JFS entered into a case plan with Mother with the goal of reunification. The case plan required Mother to complete a psychological evaluation to determine her mental health needs and follow any recommendations, comply with court orders, address her anger issues, follow through with her current mental health services, take her medications as prescribed, and secure stable housing and income. The case plan permitted Mother weekly supervised visits with B.T.H.

         {¶ 5} In September 2014, the juvenile court found that B.T.H. was an abused and dependent child and that Mother was the perpetrator of the abuse. The court noted that B.T.H.'s father, after proper service, failed to appear and was found in default.

         {¶ 6} In May 2015, B.T.H.'s aunt informed the agency that she could no longer maintain temporary custody of B.T.H. JFS then moved to transfer temporary custody to the agency. The court granted JFS' motion and the agency placed B.T.H. in foster care.

         {¶ 7} In March 2016, JFS moved for permanent custody. The motion alleged that B.T.H. could not be placed with her parents within a reasonable time and should not be placed with her parents and that a grant of permanent custody in favor of the agency was in B.T.H.'s best interest. In July 2016, JFS filed a second motion for permanent custody with allegations identical in all pertinent respects to the allegations of the March 2016 motion. At a later hearing, the agency formally withdrew the March 2016 permanent custody motion.

         {¶ 8} The court held the permanent custody hearing over several days in November 2016 and January 2017. In support of permanent custody, JFS introduced the testimony of Mother's JFS caseworker, who had been involved with the case since July 2014.

         {¶ 9} The caseworker testified that Mother had problems with taking her prescription medication. The caseworker testified that she checked Mother's prescriptions on three occasions and found that Mother was out of medication sooner than called for by the prescriptions. Yet Mother tested negative for her medication in drug screens. Mother always provided the caseworker with excuses for the loss of medication, including claiming that family members were stealing her prescriptions. The agency referred Mother to a substance abuse agency that would assist Mother with taking her medication and perform pill counts.

         {¶ 10} A counselor from the substance abuse agency testified that she began working with Mother in October 2015. The counselor provided Mother with scheduled in-home therapy sessions, which also involved pill counts. Mother's counselor stated that on several of these scheduled visits no one responded to the door. Mother offered various excuses as to her lack of response. When the counselor could complete pill counts, Mother's counts were sometimes substantially off. On one occasion, Mother was missing 40 Xanax pills only two days after receiving her prescription. The counselor also noted that Mother tested negative for her prescribed medication. Finally, the counselor said that Mother showed her a text message from a friend asking for Mother's medication.

         {¶ 11} The JFS caseworker testified that Mother lived with relatives until April 2015, when she obtained an apartment. The caseworker visited Mother's apartment and found it unsanitary. The caseworker observed food left out in the kitchen, garbage on the floor, and a strong odor and dirty dishes on Mother's mattress. The caseworker never observed the apartment in an appropriate condition for a child. Mother's counselor similarly testified that Mother's apartment was "always dirty."

         {¶ 12} The agency also had concerns about Mother's personal associations. Mother admitted to the caseworker that her cousin had overdosed in the apartment and that others she allowed in the home were stealing her medication. The caseworker confirmed that Mother filed a police report concerning missing pills. While the permanent custody hearing was ...

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