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In re V.G.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette

February 26, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF: V.G.

         APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case No. AND20150016

          Jess C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, Sean M. Abbott, Fayette County Courthouse, 110 East Court Street, Washington C.H., Ohio 43160, for appellee

          Landis S. Terhune-Olaker, P.O. Box 895, Washington C.H., Ohio 43160, guardian ad litem Kathryn Hapner, 172 North High Street, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133, attorney for child Melissa S. Upthegrove, 254 East Court Street, Washington C.H., Ohio 43160, for appellant

          OPINION

          RINGLAND, JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} D.G., the mother ("Mother") of V.G., appeals a decision of the Fayette County Court of Commons Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of V.G. to appellee, Fayette County Department of Job and Family Services ("FCDJFS"). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the decision of the juvenile court.

         {¶ 2} On March 3, 2015, FCDJFS filed a complaint alleging neglect and dependency, and requesting emergency temporary custody. The complaint alleged that on January 20, 2015, juvenile probation officers responded to a report Mother locked V.G. and V.G.'s two siblings in a bedroom. The complaint further alleged officers visited Mother's residence and knocked on the front door, but no one answered. The children informed the officers through an open window that they were locked in a bedroom. Mother and Mother's then-boyfriend, a known drug user, both admitted to locking the children in the bedroom and that the children would knock when they needed something. The bedroom where the children were located did not have any identifiable beds. The officers noticed toilet paper in the room and learned the children had been urinating and defecating out of the bedroom window. The officers arrested Mother, and on February 13, 2015, the Fayette County Grand Jury indicted her on three counts of endangering children.

         {¶ 3} On March 4, the juvenile court granted FCD JFS's ex parte motion for temporary custody. The following month, Mother admitted dependency and the juvenile court dismissed the neglect allegation. On May 5, 2015, the juvenile court adjudicated the children dependent related to the father, who was not involved with this case or the present appeal. The juvenile court subsequently held a dispositional hearing and granted temporary custody on May 28, 2015. FCDJFS filed a motion for permanent custody on September 14, 2016, which FCDJFS later withdrew to allow Mother an additional opportunity to work towards completing her case plan objectives. On April 7, 2017, FCDJFS filed a second motion for permanent custody. Again, FCDJFS filed a motion to withdraw the second permanent custody motion. The juvenile court held a hearing on the second motion for permanent custody and motion to withdraw on August 29, 2017. The hearing revealed the following facts.

         {¶ 4} The caseworker testified regarding the initial concerns leading to V.G.'s removal discussed above with respect to the complaint. Mother's original case plan had a goal of reunification and required Mother to complete parenting classes, a mental health assessment and any recommended treatment therefrom, sign all releases, submit to random drug screenings, and obtain suitable housing and employment. Mother completed most of these case plan requirements. On July 11, 2016, FCDJFS returned V.G. to Mother's care. However, on August 17, 2016, FCDJFS removed V.G. a second time because Mother permitted a known drug user to be present in the residence with V.G. and the other children. FCDJFS filed its first motion for permanent custody alleging V.G. inappropriately touched other children and Mother had failed to transport V.G. to medical and counseling appointments. FCDJFS withdrew this motion to allow Mother additional time to work a new case plan. The new case plan contained similar requirements as the first case plan.

         {¶ 5} In January 2017, while Mother worked her new case plan, FCDJFS placed V.G.'s sibling with Mother. However, after one and one-half days, FCDJFS removed the child from Mother's care because she permitted two known drug users to be present in the residence around the child. Shortly thereafter, Mother attempted suicide by ingesting a bottle of Zoloft prescription medication and a bottle of Tylenol PM. Following Mother's attempted suicide, placement with Mother was no longer an option because Mother resided with the maternal grandmother, who has a history with FCDJFS regarding a pending sex abuse case from 1998.

         {¶ 6} The caseworker testified V.G. is bonded with Mother, Mother parents appropriately during visitation, and that she believed Mother could properly parent V.G. with "support." Mother completed most of her second case plan, but at the time of the permanent custody hearing had not obtained suitable housing and employment. Mother is unemployed and receives Social Security income. The guardian ad litem ("GAL") submitted a written report and recommendation to the juvenile court, recommending permanent custody to FCDJFS.

         {¶ 7} On October 11, 2017, the juvenile court granted permanent custody of V.G. to FCDJFS. Mother timely appealed from this decision.

         {¶ 8} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 9} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY TERMINATING APPELLANT'S PARENTAL RIGHTS, AS THAT JUDGMENT WAS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AND WAS UNSUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE AS THE APPELLANT HAD SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLIED WITH THE CASE PLAN.

         {¶ 10} Mother asserts the juvenile court erred by granting permanent custody of V.G. to FCDJFS because its decision was not supported by clear and convincing evidence and against the manifest weight of the evidence. Mother contends several best interest factors weighed in favor of denying FCDJFS's motion. Specifically, V.G. wished to return to Mother's care, ...


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