from the Holmes County Court of Common Pleas, Probate and
Juvenile Division case no. 14N198
Plaintiff-Appellee: SEAN WARNER
Defendants-Appellants: DAVID M. HUNTER, MONICA L. MIYASHITA
Attorney for Opal Stevens
W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Patricia
A. Delaney, J.
Defendant-appellant Opal Stevens ("Mother") appeals
from the September 22, 2017 Judgment Entries of the Holmes
County Court of Common Pleas, Probate and Juvenile Division,
granting appellee Holmes County Department of Job and Family
Services, Children Services Division ("Agency")
permanent custody of her daughter I.S. and her son
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Mother has several children but relevant here are I.S., born
October 25, 2010, and B.S., born September 19, 2012.
I.S.'s biological father is not a party to the instant
case. Father of B.S. is Thomas Miller
["Father"]. At the time this case arose, Mother and
Father lived with B.S. and his siblings I.S. and John Doe in
Holmes County, Ohio.
On November 23, 2014, the Agency received a report that
Mother threw a sippy cup at B.S., yelled at him, and
threatened to "cut his hands off" if he did not
behave. On December 8, 2014, the Agency filed a complaint
alleging I.S. and B.S. to be neglected and abused.
B.S. and I.S. were found to be neglected as to Mother on
March 3, 2015.
A case plan was adopted and Mother was required to, e.g.,
complete parenting classes; to obtain a psychological
evaluation; to complete a domestic violence assessment; and
to complete individual counseling and maintain housing and
During a trauma assessment of I.S., Mother admitted she had
"no bond" with I.S. because an ultrasound during
her pregnancy indicated I.S. was a boy but she was in fact a
girl. Mother admitted she found it difficult to bond with a
girl and that it was difficult for her to care for three
children, citing time spent in the hospital with John Doe,
which took her away from I.S., who was three years old when
John Doe was born.
The assessor noted Mother had problems processing what she
learned in the parenting classes. When asked what ideas she
took away from the parenting classes, Mother could not
explain strategies to be a better caregiver of her children.
The Agency's visitation coordinator testified about
interaction with Mother at visitation. Mother had limited
engagement with B.S. and I.S. during visitation, sometimes
choosing to color by herself. Mother did not intervene in the
children's unruly behavior, remaining seated and simply
telling the children to stop. Mother sometimes called the
visitation coordinator back into the room to report that the
children were not listening to her. At least one visit with
Mother was disruptive to the extent that the children left
the room and ran down the hall, and destroyed Agency
property. The visits were described over time as
Mother's psychological evaluation indicated she is at
risk for physical abuse and neglect of her children,
concluding that her visitation should be limited and
supervised. The evaluator noted that Mother's lowered
borderline intellectual capacity makes it difficult for her
to complete a case plan and the prognosis for positive change
is poor. (The trial court did note that at the time of the
evidentiary hearing this evaluation was two years and one
month old, and such results are considered valid for two
The children were found to be negatively impacted by
interaction with Mother and Father. Mother was described as
indifferent toward the children.
I.S.' trauma assessment indicated she experienced
increased behavioral issues when she visited with Mother but
those issues dissipated almost immediately when visitation
was suspended. I.S. exhibited anxiety surrounding visitation
with Mother, exacerbated by Mother's vacillation between
ignoring I.S. and expressing frustration toward her.
B.S. exhibited behavioral issues and was also assessed for
trauma. It was determined that he has been a victim of and a
witness to domestic violence perpetrated by Father and
Mother. B.S. stated he does not feel safe with Mother and
Father. Mother acknowledged that she may have slapped B.S. to
The family's ongoing caseworker acknowledged Mother
completed her case plan services, but the caseworker opined
there was no reduction in risk to the children. The
caseworker discussed this conclusion with Mother in June 2017
and was met with defiance, denial, and confusion. Mother
never expressed any concern about I.S. and B.S. or asked how
they were doing. The caseworker agreed with other witnesses
that Mother did not engage with the children during
visitation and did not have positive interaction with them.
Ultimately, the caseworker acknowledged both parents worked
hard toward completing their case plans but did not prove
themselves capable of retaining what they were taught. She
saw no increase in positive interaction between Mother, I.S.,
and B.S. during the course of the case plan.
At the time of the evidentiary hearing, the Agency had
maintained temporary custody of I.S. and B.S. for 32 months,
and Mother had not visited the children for 16 months of that
I.S. and B.S. were in the temporary custody of the Agency and
placed with the same foster family for 21 months when the
Agency moved for permanent custody of both siblings on
September 15, 2016. The basis of the motion for permanent
custody was the fact that the children were in the custody of
the Agency for more than 12 months of a consecutive 22-month
An evidentiary hearing was held in late June, 2017. On
September 22, 2017, the trial court awarded permanent custody
of B.S. and I.S. to the Agency.
Mother now appeals from the trial court's decision
granting permanent custody of I.S. and B.S. to the Agency.
Mother raises two assignments of error:
"I. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ADMITTING
INTO EVIDENCE A VIDEOTAPE PURPORTED TO DEPICT A TYPICAL VISIT
IN CONTRAVENTION OF RULE 403 OF THE OHIO RULES OF EVIDENCE
AND WITHOUT AUTHENTICATION PURSUANT TO RULE 901 OF THE OHIO
RULES OF EVIDENCE."
"II. THE TRIAL COURT'S JUDGMENT THAT IT WAS NOT IN
THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE MINOR CHILDREN TO BE PLACED WITH
[MOTHER] WAS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT AND ...