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In re S.A.-C.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

December 29, 2017

IN RE: S.A.-C. S.A.-C.

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE Nos. DN 14-11-744 DN 14-11-745

          APPEARANCES: JAMES K. REED, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

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

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          DONNA J. CARR FOR THE COURT

         {¶1} Appellant, Michael C. ("Father"), appeals from a judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, that denied his motion for legal custody and instead terminated his parental rights and placed two of his minor children in the permanent custody of Summit County Children Services Board ("CSB"). This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} Father is the biological father of several children, including the two at issue in this appeal, both of whom have the initials S.A.-C.: a girl, born October 18, 2000; and a boy, born October 6, 2006. The children's mother ("Mother") is no longer a party to this case because she died of pneumonia during the trial court proceedings.

         {¶3} Several years ago, these children were removed from the custody of Mother and placed with Father because Mother had paranoid schizophrenia and was not consistently engaging in counseling and medication management. When the current case began, the children had been in the custody of Father for several years.

         {¶4} On November 5, 2014, police removed the girl from Father's custody following an incident of domestic violence between Father and the girl. Father and the children were also living with Father's girlfriend and two other minor children. The boy was included in the complaint and later adjudicated a dependent child. The boy was not home during the domestic violence incident or otherwise involved in any conflict with Father, so he was permitted to remain in Father's custody under an order of protective supervision.

         {¶5} During March 2015, the boy was also removed from Father's custody. Father's girlfriend had alleged that Father had a substance abuse problem and that she had been the primary caretaker for the boy but no longer wanted to care for him. Father admitted that he had been using cocaine but he refused to obtain a substance abuse assessment or engage in any treatment.

         {¶6} The case plan required that both children engage in counseling to address their behavioral problems. The children had informed their counselors that Father's girlfriend was mean to them and that she had inappropriately disciplined them on numerous occasions. Father recognized that there was a strained relationship between his girlfriend and these two children, yet he continued his romantic relationship with her.

         {¶7} During the first year of this case, Father did not comply with the reunification requirements of the case plan and did not maintain consistent contact with CSB, the trial court, or the children. Mother, on the other hand, visited the children regularly, stabilized her mental health through regular counseling and medication management, and complied with other aspects of the case plan. Consequently, CSB's reunification efforts focused on Mother. Temporary custody was extended because Mother was making significant progress on the case plan. Mother's interaction with the children had progressed to unsupervised visits and CSB was planning to return the children to her custody.

         {¶8} On March 23, 2016, however, Mother unexpectedly died of pneumonia. Reunification with Mother was no longer possible and, 16 months into this case, Father was not consistently visiting the children and had not complied with most of the requirements of the case plan. On May 26, 2016, CSB moved for permanent custody. Shortly afterward, Father informed the juvenile court that he was "ready to step up to the plate" and begin working toward reunification with his children.

         {¶9} The parties agreed to extend the next review hearing and the permanent custody hearing was ultimately extended for several months. During that time, Father resumed visitation with his children and began working on some of the reunification requirements of the ...


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