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In re L.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

November 8, 2017



          MARK SWEENEY, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN DIMARTINO, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          JOSEPH KERNAN, Attorney at Law, for CASA Guardian ad Litem.


          CALLAHAN, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Appellant Father appeals the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, that terminated his parental rights to his minor child L.H., and placed the child in the permanent custody of Summit County Children Services Board ("CSB"). This Court affirms.


         {¶2} Mother gave birth to twins on February 2, 2016. Father is the biological father of one of the twins, L.H. (d.o.b. 2/2/16).[1] He was excluded by genetic testing as the father of the other twin. Paternity was not established as to the other child, and that child is not a subject of this appeal.

         {¶3} Ten days after the child's birth, CSB filed a complaint alleging that she was a dependent child pursuant to R.C. 2151.04(C) and (D), in that her condition or environment warranted the state in assuming her guardianship; or that siblings in her household had previously been adjudicated dependent, neglected, or abused, and those circumstances placed the child in danger of abuse or neglect by a parent or household member. The agency obtained an emergency order of temporary custody the same day.

         {¶4} Before L.H.'s paternity was established, Mother identified an alleged father. On May 6, 2016, that man was excluded by genetic testing. CSB immediately thereafter moved to add Father as a party and for an order directing him to submit to genetic testing. In the meantime, the matter proceeded to adjudication as to Mother and John Doe. The child was adjudicated dependent and placed in the temporary custody of CSB. The juvenile court adopted the proposed case plan submitted by the agency. The subsequent amended case plan directed Father to cooperate with CSB and CSEA to establish his identity as the father, to clarify his intentions to assume a parenting role, to contact the agency if he wanted visitation, and to cooperate in a home study. The next semiannual administrative review noted that Father contacted the agency on May 17, 2016, expressing his interest in establishing paternity and obtaining custody.

         {¶5} At the review hearing in mid-July 2016, genetic test results had not yet been obtained. On August 15, 2016, the agency filed genetic test results indicating that Father was the biological father of L.H. After CSB moved to establish a parent-child relationship, the juvenile court ordered that Father was the biological father of L.H. Two months later, the guardian ad litem noted in her report prior to a review hearing that she had not met Father, because he failed to appear for a scheduled visit with the child on September 14, 2016.

         {¶6} On October 12, 2016, CSB filed an amended case plan, adding additional case plan objectives for Father. The agency noted concerns that Father had been arrested at the end of July 2016, on serious charges including trafficking in heroin, possession of heroin, and having weapons while under disability. Father's latest case plan objectives included establishing visitation with the child, resolving his outstanding criminal matters, remaining drug free, submitting to an alcohol/drug assessment and counseling, and demonstrating an ability to maintain housing and employment to provide for the basic needs of the child. The juvenile court adopted the amended case plan as the order of the court. More than two months later, the agency noted Father's insufficient progress on his case plan objectives in a semiannual administrative review. Specifically, CSB noted that Father had not resolved his pending criminal charges, and he had not made himself available to meet with the child and establish a bond. Specifically, he had failed to appear for a scheduled visitation in early September 2016; and, although he had appeared for two visits in late September and October 2016, he had had no contact with the agency since that time. Accordingly, CSB had been unable to assess Father's parenting abilities or his ability to support the child.

         {¶7} On December 21, 2016, CSB filed a motion for permanent custody. The matter was not scheduled for permanent custody hearing until May 23, 2017. The agency alleged that the child could not be placed with either parent within a reasonable time or should not be placed with her parents pursuant to R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(a). Specifically as to Father, CSB alleged that Father had demonstrated a lack of commitment toward the child or otherwise showed an unwillingness to provide an adequate home for the child pursuant to R.C. 2151.414(E)(4).

         {¶8} In the meantime, the guardian ad litem submitted two reports. In her first report, she noted that she had still never met Father. In her later report, she again wrote that she had never met Father, because he had not been attending visitations or contacting the agency to establish a convenient visitation schedule. In ...

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