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In re S.G.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Holmes

December 28, 2017


         Civil appeal from the Holmes County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, Case No. 14N103


          For Appellant CHRISTINA REIHELD

          Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, P.J. Hon. W.Scott Gwin, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.


          GWIN, J.

         {¶1} Appellant C.G. and appellant R.G. appeal from the May 18, 2017 judgment entry of the Holmes County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, terminating their parental rights and granting permanent custody of S.G. and X.G. to the Holmes County Department of Job and Family Services ("HCCS").

         Facts & Procedural History

         {¶2} C.G. is the mother ("Mother) of S.G., born July 19, 2011, and X.G., born December 30, 2013. R.G. is the father ("Father") of S.G. and X.G. On June 11, 2014, HCCS filed a neglect, abuse, and dependency complaint with regards to S.G. and X.G. The complaint alleged, in part, that there was a lack of supervision in the home, the children were dirty and wearing dirty clothing, X.G. was very small for his age and appeared non-responsive with grey-colored skin, X.G. had a rash on his face and neck, S.G. was extremely dirty, S.G. appeared to have a speech delay, the family slept until the afternoon each day, there was no observable structure in the home, there was a lack of formula in the home, and while the parents slept, X.G. was propped in front of the television or left to sleep on the couch. The complaint further stated a doctor who saw the children was concerned about X.G.'s failure to thrive and S.G.'s developmental delays.

         {¶3} On June 11, 2014, the trial court issued an ex parte order. On June 13, 2014, the trial court found it was in the best interest of the children to grant temporary custody to HCCS.

         {¶4} A case plan for both parents was established on July 8, 2014. The case plan required as follows: Mother and Father both complete a mental health assessment through Anazao and follow all recommendations made in that assessment; Mother and Father both complete parenting classes through Anazao and follow all recommendations; Mother and Father both complete Home-Based Therapy through Anazo and follow all recommendations; Mother and Father both complete individual counseling on a weekly basis through the Family Life Center and follow all recommendations; and Mother and Father both obtain and maintain stable housing and employment.

         {¶5} An adjudicatory hearing was held on September 8, 2014. At the hearing, both Mother and Father stipulated to a finding of dependency; however, the abuse and neglect portions of the complaint were dismissed. Thus, the trial court found both S.G. and X.G. to be dependent pursuant to R.C. 2151.04(C) and ordered temporary custody to remain with HCCS. The trial court also adopted the July 8, 2014 case plan. On September 9, 2014, the case plan was amended to add that both Mother and Father complete a psychological assessment.

         {¶6} In October of 2014, pursuant to a motion filed by the guardian ad litem ("GAL") and a judgment entry by the trial court, the supervised visitation between the children and parents was moved to their home. In March of 2015, the supervised visits increased to week-ends from 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning to 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

         {¶7} In May of 2015, HCCS filed a motion to extend temporary custody for six months to allow the parents to continue case plan services. The trial court granted the motion on May 26, 2015. In November of 2015, HCCS filed another motion to extend temporary custody for six months to allow the parents to continue case plan services. The trial court granted the motion on December 4, 2015. An amended case plan was filed on November 25, 2015 that provided the parents will work with S.G.'s play therapist, follow any recommendations, work with S.G.'s speech therapist and follow any recommendations, and will work with S.G.'s preschool and follow any recommendations.

         {¶8} After a review hearing in January of 2016, the trial court issued a judgment entry stating that if Mother's relative wanted custody of the children, she needs to file a request with the trial court. Further, the trial court cautioned the parents that the children have been in the temporary custody of HCCS for such a long time it is important they make significant progress on their case plan requirements very soon.

         {¶9} In February of 2016, visitation between the parents and children was increased and was from Saturday morning to Wednesday evening.

         {¶10} In April of 2016, an amended case plan was filed, adding protective daycare to the requirements. On June 6, 2016, HCCS filed a motion for permanent custody of S.G. and X.G. The motion states the parents have participated in the case plan, but there is still a significant risk of a safety threat to the children. Further, that the parents cannot meet the children's basic needs or provide supervision. Finally, the motion alleges the additional visits increased concerns about the children's well-being due to lack of structure, inability to maintain a consistent daily routine, and the inability to maintain nutrition and attend medical appointments. Also in June of 2016, Mother and Father filed a motion to modify disposition to return custody.

         {¶11} In July of 2016, HCCS filed a motion for temporary suspension of visitation due to a report by S.G. that another adult male sleeps in her bed. The motion was denied by the trial court.

         {¶12} Rachel Hoffee ("Hoffee"), the GAL, filed her report and recommendation on August 5, 2016. Hoffee stated she does not believe the parents can adequately parent on a full-time, permanent basis without significant support. Further, that the parents have only been able to maintain the children for five-day visitation due largely to all service care providers frequently and consistently involved in their lives. Hoffee stated the parents love the children and are bonded with the children, but sometimes demonstrate poor decision-making and thus, the risk of future neglect is not completely eliminated. Hoffee recommended returning custody to the parents only on the following conditions: when not at school, the children attend daycare all day, three to five days per week, all year long; the parents continue to participate in individual and marriage counseling; the parents continue to take the children to all medical and therapy appointments; and Mother continues to utilize case management services.

         {¶13} In October of 2016, HCCS filed a motion to modify visitation. The trial court denied the motion.

         {¶14} Hoffee filed a supplemental GAL report on January 12, 2017. Hoffee again stated she does not believe the parents can adequately parent on a full-time, permanent basis, even with significant support in place. Further, that over the last several months, the children are struggling emotionally, struggling behaviorally, struggling developmentally, and are regressing back to their old, concerning behaviors. Hoffee stated the parents continue to demonstrate poor decision-making, as they allowed an adult male friend to sleep with S.G. in a twin bed and invited Mother's friend and boyfriend, who had a concerning criminal history, had just been charged with drug trafficking, and whose children were removed from their care, to live in their home for a time. Hoffee found the parents make parenting decisions that frequently put the children's safety at risk. Hoffee does not believe the parents will continue their own or the children's services after this case closes. Hoffee stated the children need permanency, structure, and stability; and reunification with the parents will not result in permanency. Hoffee recommended the trial court grant HCCS' motion for permanent custody.

         {¶15} A trial on the agency's motion for permanent custody and parents' motion for return of custody was held on January 18, January 19, March 6, March 7, and March 9 of 2017. Tara Gerber ("Gerber"), an intake worker with HCCS, testified the concerns in June of 2014 with the parents included: the home was dirty; X.G. was limp, had gray skin, and a red rash when she visited the home; S.G. was dirty and her feet were black; and Dr. McFadden had concerns with Mother's ability to care for the children. Gerber stated she decided to request removal of the children from the home because of the condition of the home, the condition of the children, and the concern expressed by the doctor about X.G.

         {¶16} Dr. Dwight McFadden ("McFadden") was the primary care provider for X.G. and S.G. McFadden had concerns about X.G.'s failure to thrive. McFadden discussed this with Mother and Father prior to HCCS involvement, but the situation did not improve. McFadden felt the parents had difficulty in understanding what he was trying to say. McFadden has no concerns with the foster parents. McFadden has less concerns today with Mother and Father than before, but he still has concerns.

         {¶17} Dr. Steven Burggraf ("Burggraf") is the Executive Director of Family Life Counseling and Psychiatric Services. Burggraf conducted Mother's psychological evaluation. He testified that Mother has an intellectual disability and her low level of cognitive functioning impacts her ability to process information, problem-solve, plan, judgment, and ability to learn through experience. This impacts her ability to parent, as there have been significant efforts to teach Mother parenting skills, but they are difficult for her to implement. Burggraf stated Mother's prognosis for change is poor. There is a greater likelihood that Mother's depression can improve to some degree through medication and counseling. Burggraf concluded Mother's intellectual disability is a significant issue in her ability to parent and this prognosis is unlikely to improve. Burggraf also concluded Mother's depression, along with her intellectual disability, is problematic because it creates a situation where she is sleeping long periods of time and not tending to her own personal needs and the needs of the children. Burggraf testified Mother demonstrated she is incompetent to independently parent her children and the prognosis is poor that she can become competent through instruction or treatment.

         {¶18} Burggraf testified that Exhibit 1 is his report of the mental health evaluation of Mother. Exhibit 1 is consistent with Burggraf's testimony, as the report provides he diagnosed Mother with an intellectual disability that has a profound negative impact on her competency to parent her children, as she cannot execute the parenting skills she is taught. Burggraf classified the effects of this diagnosis as "pervasive" and concluded that Mother is incompetent to independently parent and the prognosis is poor that she can become competent through instruction or treatment. Burggraf also diagnosed Mother with major depressive disorder, whose symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in important areas of functioning, including parenting. Burggraf concluded that while this depression negatively impacts her ability to parent, she could improve through medication and counseling.

         {¶19} Milton Ledford ("Ledford") is a licensed professional clinical counselor who is the individual counselor for Father. Ledford testified he and Father worked on priority and responsibility and there was not much progress by Father on these goals in the first year. Ledford then saw Mother and Father together and noticed a disturbing turn of events with blame-shifting and not following through.

         {¶20} Robert Hull ("Hull") is a developmental behavioral pediatrician who completed an evaluation on S.G. Hull diagnosed S.G. with speech apraxia. Due to the speech apraxia and some developmental delays, Hull gave the family an occupational therapy request, a physical therapy request, and a speech therapy request for S.G. Hull testified if S.G. receives services, there is hope for improvement and it is very important she receives services on a regular and consistent basis. Kathryn Hodkinson, the speech therapist for S.G., ...

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