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In re M.A.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Monroe

January 22, 2018


         Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, of Monroe County, Ohio Case No. 5218.

          For Mother-Appellant Attorney Brent Clyburn.

          For Grandmother-Appellant Attorney Margaret Boyd LaPlante.

          For MCDJFS-Appellee Attorney James Peters County Prosecutor Attorney Jamie Riley Assistant Prosecutor.

          JUDGES: Hon. Mary DeGenaro Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Carol Ann Robb.


          DeGENARO, J.

         {¶1} In separate cases, mother and maternal grandmother appeal the juvenile court judgment which granted permanent custody of the children to the Monroe County Department of Job and Family Services. Because the children have been in the custody of the Agency for more than 12 consecutive months and the grant of custody is in their best interests, the judgment is affirmed.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} M.A., C.A., and S.A., ages 6, 8, and 5 respectively, were taken into emergency custody by MCDJFS on May 12, 2015. The Agency filed a complaint with the juvenile court alleging that all three children were abused and neglected. An adjudicatory hearing was held on July 16, 2015, and the children were found to be abused and neglected. They remained in the temporary custody of the Agency. Immediately following the adjudicatory hearing Mother was arrested on a warrant.

         {¶3} A case plan was filed that included Mother. Grandmother requested to be included but the juvenile court denied this at disposition noting she had no legally recognized right to be included or to visitation. On November 12, 2015, Grandmother filed an objection contending that since the children had lived with her for about a year and a half before being removed, she needed to be included on the case plan. The juvenile court later reconsidered, ordered that she remain a party, and directed the Agency to include her on the case plan.

         {¶4} On May 11, 2016, a dispositional review was held. The juvenile court noted that Mother was incarcerated, charged as a persistent felony offender, and would not be released from jail in the near future. Grandmother expressed her desire to have the minor children returned to her care; however, her son (Uncle), a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who refuses to take his medication, remained living at her residence. Uncle was usually armed with a firearm or sword, and the children feared him. The court continued the children in care of their foster family.

         {¶5} On August 9, 2016, a letter to the judge was filed with the juvenile court from Mother. She informed the court that she "signed on 5 years" and that she had an additional hearing on September 6, 2016, where she would find out if she could get probation. She requested additional time for her case.

         {¶6} On August 22, 2016, the Agency filed a motion for permanent custody asserting that the children could not be placed with the Mother or Grandmother within a reasonable time, that the children had been in the Agency's custody for more than 12 of 22 months, and that permanent custody was in the best interests of the children.

         {¶7} On September 21, 2016, the juvenile court conducted in camera interviews of the minor children at the request of the guardian ad litem. Days later Mother filed a motion for continuance as she was released from prison and attempting to secure housing, find a job, and start counseling. The court granted this motion and continued the permanent custody hearing from September 29, 2016 to November 4, 2016. At the permanent custody hearing on November 4, 2016, Mother made a motion to continue the matter yet again to give her additional time, and the court continued the matter to February.

         {¶8} On December 7, 2016, a deputy from the county sheriffs office accompanied the caseworker to Grandmother's house. Grandmother exited her home to speak with the caseworker and a male (later identified as Uncle J.A.) began shouting obscenities from inside of the house. Fearing for their safety, the deputy and caseworker left the property without securing a urine sample from Mother to conduct a drug test.

         {¶9} On February 3, 2017, a hearing was held on the permanent custody motion. Ten witnesses testified including the guardian ad litem, Mother, Father, and the Agency caseworker. Grandmother did not testify but was represented by counsel. On February 27, 2017, the juvenile court terminated Mother and Father's parental rights and awarded permanent custody to the Agency. From this decision, Mother and Grandmother preserved timely appeals that will be discussed together.

         Grandmother's ...

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