Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont
FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
A. Hoberg, for appellant A.L.
Suellen M. Brafford, for appellant, M.L.
Vincent Faris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, Nicholas
Horton, for Clermont County Department of Job & Family
1} A.L. and M.L. ("Mother" and
"Father" respectively or "parents"
collectively) appeal the decision of the Clermont County
Juvenile Court, which granted permanent custody of their son,
T.L., to the Clermont County Department of Job and Family
Services. For the reasons discussed below, this court affirms
the decision of the juvenile court.
2} In October 2014, the Clermont County Department
of Job and Family Services ("JFS" or "the
agency") established an unofficial case concerning T.L.
The unofficial case was intended to address risks to
T.L.'s health, safety and welfare, based upon the
parents' substance abuse and incidents of domestic
violence between the parents. In December 2014, the agency
closed this unofficial case after Mother and Father agreed to
transfer custody of T.L. to a family friend. However, one
month later the friend informed JFS that she could no longer
care for T.L. because Mother and Father were threatening her.
As a result, in January 2015, JFS filed a complaint alleging
that T.L., then almost five years old, was a dependent child.
The court held an emergency hearing and placed T.L. in the
temporary custody of JFS. The agency thereafter placed T.L.
in a foster home.
3} The agency initiated a case plan with the goal of
reunifying Mother and Father with T. L. The plan required
Mother and Father to receive substance abuse counseling and
treatment. The case plan further required Mother and Father
to attend parenting classes and complete anger management and
counseling with respect to their issues with domestic
violence. In addition, Mother and Father were required to
obtain stable income and safe and stable housing for T.L. The
case plan provided Mother and Father with weekly supervised
visits with T.L.
4} In April 2015, the court adjudicated T.L. a
dependent child. Following a June 2015 dispositional hearing,
the court continued temporary custody with the agency. The
court twice extended temporary custody with the agency.
5} In August 2016, JFS moved for permanent custody,
alleging that T.L. had been in its custody for 12 or more
months of a consecutive 22-month period, that T.L. could not
or should not be placed with either of his parents within a
reasonable time, and that it was in T.L.'s best interest
that the court grant the agency permanent custody. T.L.'s
guardian ad litem ("GAL") filed a written report
recommending that the court grant permanent custody to JFS.
6} In January 2017, the court held the permanent
custody hearing. A JFS caseworker testified that beginning in
October 2014 and through December 2014, Mother and Father had
several incidents of domestic violence, which their children
witnessed. Father was drunk during these incidents.
Following these incidents, Mother and Father voluntarily
transferred custody of T.L. to a family friend in December
7} With respect to Mother's progress in her case
plan, the caseworker testified that Mother completed those
aspects of her case plan related to substance abuse. Mother
sporadically attended specified therapy/counselling sessions
related to mental health and domestic violence concerns,
missing seven appointments. The service provider rated
mother's progress as a 6 or 7 on a scale of 10.
8} Mother never satisfied the stable income
component of the case plan. She briefly obtained employment
in November 2016, which ended the same month. Otherwise,
Mother was unemployed throughout the case.
9} The case plan specified that Father engage in a
substance abuse assessment and comply with any resulting
recommendations. In furtherance of this requirement, the
agency referred Father to a substance abuse recovery center
in January 2015. However, father did not begin the program
and the recovery center closed his case.
10} Approximately 14 months later, in March 2016,
Father completed an alcohol assessment at a behavioral health
center. However, contrary to the recommendation for treatment
arising from the assessment, Father failed to return to the
health center for another four months and reported ongoing
alcohol use during this time. In August 2016, over a year and
a half after the case began, father began an inpatient
alcohol abuse program. Father completed the two-week program
and reported to the caseworker that he had remained sober
since. Father's recommendations upon leaving the
inpatient program were to engage an Alcoholics Anonymous
("AA") sponsor within two weeks and attend 90 AA
sessions in 3 months and to follow up with the behavioral
health center. Notwithstanding these recommendations, Father
failed to obtain a sponsor and attended only five AA
sessions. The behavioral health center closed Father's
case for non-compliance the next month. In November 2016,
Father re-engaged with the behavioral health center and began
counseling services on both substance abuse and mental
health/domestic violence issues.
11} With respect to his income, Father worked in
2016 for a power company and earned around $3, 000. He was
unemployed at the time of the permanent custody hearing, but
had submitted two job applications. He told the caseworker
that he did not have enough gas money to drive around and
look for employment.
12} Despite the case plan requirement that Mother
and Father obtain and maintain stable housing, they were
unable or unwilling to do so. When the case began, Mother and
Father were living in various friends' homes. In the
summer of 2015, they moved to the home of Father's mother
and aunt. The home is a small trailer located in Cynthiana,
Kentucky. The trailer has two bedrooms and a small ...