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In re K.K.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren

December 18, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: K.K., et al.


          David P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kathryn M. Horvath, for appellee, Warren County Children Services

          Mary K. Martin, for appellant, Staniela King

          Lauren L. Clouse, for appellant, Glen Keene

          Tyrone P. Borger, for appellant, Jacqueline King

          John C. Kaspar, for appellant, Randall King


          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellants Jacqueline King, Randall King, Staniela King, and Glen Keene, appeal the decisions of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division granting permanent custody of K.K., M.K., and S.M., to appellee, Warren County Children Services ("WCCS" or "the agency").

         {¶ 2} Staniela is the children's biological mother. Glen is the biological father of M.K. and S.M. The biological father of K.K. was not identified.

         {¶ 3} Staniela and Glen resided in Kentucky. A Kentucky children services agency removed the children from Staniela's and Glen's care several times because of housing instability and drug abuse. In 2011, after the Kentucky agency removed the children for the third time, it placed the children in the temporary custody of Randall, their maternal grandfather, and his wife Jacqueline.[1] Jacqueline and Randall lived with the children in Warren County.

         {¶ 4} Staniela and Glen later relinquished legal custody of the children to Randall and Jacqueline. In 2013, Randall and Jacqueline adopted K.K. Randall and Jacqueline continued to maintain legal custody of M.K. and S.M.

         {¶ 5} On October 23, 2015, WCCS filed a complaint alleging that the children were dependent. The complaint alleged that S.M., age eight, had been hospitalized because of violent behavior toward K.K., age five, and M.K., age six, including threatening to harm them with knives. Jacqueline and Randall reported to the agency that they did not think they could care for S.M. or protect the younger children from S.M. The agency also alleged that Randall exposed the children to pornography and was physically and verbally abusing the children. The agency initiated a safety plan whereby Randall left the home. However, Jacqueline later informed the agency that Randall was needed in the home for support. WCCS alleged that it was concerned with Randall's and Jacqueline's mental health and their capacity to protect the children. The complaint requested that the court grant the agency temporary custody of the children.

         {¶ 6} The court conducted an emergency shelter care hearing on the same day and made findings necessary to place the children in the agency's temporary custody. The agency placed S.M. in a residential treatment center at a hospital in Youngstown and placed K.K. and M.K. with a foster family. In December 2015, the juvenile court adjudicated the children dependent. On January 20, 2016, the court continued temporary custody with the agency.

         {¶ 7} WCCS developed case plans for the appellants, with the goal of returning the children to Jacqueline and Randall or reunifying the children with their biological parents. The case plan required appellants to complete various services related to their issues with mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and parenting. The plan required random drug screens. The case plan allowed weekly supervised visits with the children.

         {¶ 8} Jacqueline and Randall exercised weekly visits with K.K. and M.K. However, Randall would excessively tickle and poke the children. Visitation monitors repeatedly warned Randall that this behavior was inappropriate and asked him to stop. Nonetheless, he continued the behavior. Visitation monitors observed Jacqueline displaying favoritism towards K.K. in M.K.'s presence. Jacqueline and Randall did not exercise visits with S.M.

         {¶ 9} In early May 2016, M.K. disclosed to her foster parent that Randall had been sexually abusing her since she was three years old. The agency suspended visits with Jacqueline and Randall. M.K. participated in a forensic interview and described the abuse. Following the interview, the agency considered M.K.'s allegations substantiated. A criminal investigation ensued.

         {¶ 10} Jacqueline and Randall would not cooperate with the investigation. Randall moved out of state and began living with his sister. Randall no longer participated in his case plan objectives and no longer communicated with the agency.

         {¶ 11} In November 2016, a Warren County grand jury indicted Randall for two counts of rape and one count of gross sexual imposition, with M.K. as the alleged victim. Randall returned to Warren County after the indictment and was incarcerated until he posted bond. He then returned to his home with Jacqueline in Warren County.

         {¶ 12} Jacqueline complied with her case plan requirements, including completing mental health and drug and alcohol assessments. However, the agency was concerned because Jacqueline told its workers that she did not believe that Randall abused M.K., that M.K. lied about the abuse, and that Staniela and Staniela's mother coached M.K. into lying.

         {¶ 13} While Jacqueline's visits with K.K. and M.K. were suspended, Jacqueline gave the agency numerous letters and cards to pass on to the children. Agency workers refused to pass on approximately 80 percent of the correspondences because of inappropriate content, including suggestions that M.K. was lying and implications that the children would be reunified with her soon.

         {¶ 14} During the pendency of the case, Staniela lived approximately four hours away from Warren County, in northern Indiana and later in southern Michigan. Staniela rarely visited her children. Staniela completed some case plan services through a local service provider in Indiana. However, she repeatedly tested positive for THC in random drug screens.

         {¶ 15} Glen also lived in northern Indiana while the case was pending. Glen visited with S.M. on several occasions, but not regularly. Glen had two or three visits with M.K. Glen did not complete his case services related to drug counseling.

         {¶ 16} On February 21, 2017, WCCS moved for permanent custody. In May 2017, the juvenile court held a hearing on the motion. Only Jacqueline appeared to defend her parental rights. Staniela's attorney moved for a continuance, explaining that his client told him she would be at the hearing but had not called the attorney's office to say she would be late for the hearing. The court denied Staniela's motion. Randall's attorney next asked the court for a continuance, explaining that Randall could not be "involved" in the permanent custody case because of the pending criminal indictments and that Randall could jeopardize his ability to defend the criminal charges if he testified. The court denied Randall's motion.

         {¶ 17} The state elicited testimony from the forensic interviewer who spoke with M. K. concerning the alleged sexual abuse. M. K. was seven years old at the time of the interview. The interviewer opined that based on her experience in interviewing child abuse victims, M.K.'s allegations were substantiated.

         {¶ 18} S.M.'s therapist testified that she began treating S.M. in July 2016, when he was nine years old. Medical professionals diagnosed S.M. with several mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder. S.M. never spoke of Jacqueline or Randall, except to discuss Randall's physical and verbal abuse. S.M. was ...

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