Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Pickaway
IN THE MATTER OF: E.S. and L.S., Adjudicated Dependent Children.
A. Atkins, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant.
C. Wolford, Pickaway County Prosecuting Attorney, and Robert
A. Chamberlain, Pickaway County Assistant Prosecuting
Attorney, Circleville, Ohio, for Appellee Pickaway County Job
and Family Services.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY
Hoover, Presiding Judge
1} T.Z., the children's biological mother, appeals the
trial court's judgment that awarded M.H., the
children's paternal grandmother, legal custody of her two
children: ten-year-old E.S.; and seven-year-old L.S. For the
reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's
Facts and Procedural Posture
2} On September 3, 2015, Pickaway County Job and Family
Services ("the agency") filed complaints that
alleged E.S. and L.S. are dependent children. The complaints
alleged that the children's mother recently gave birth to
a child who showed signs of chemical withdrawal and that the
mother admitted that during her pregnancy, she used
hydrocodone and gabapentin without a prescription. The court
subsequently placed the children in their stepfather's
custody, subject to a protective supervision order.
3} The mother later stipulated to the facts alleged in the
complaint; and the trial court adjudicated the children
dependent. The court continued the children's placement
with their stepfather.
4} A little more than a year later, the trial court granted
M.H. ex parte emergency temporary custody of the children.
The court noted that both the mother and the stepfather
tested positive for methamphetamine and that the mother
tested positive for alcohol. The court thus placed the
children in M.H.'s temporary custody.
5} On June 30, 2017, M.H. filed a motion for legal custody of
the two children. The biological father, T.S., consented.
6} On August 29, 2017, the court held a hearing to consider
M.H.'s motion for legal custody. PCJFS caseworker David
Groff testified that the agency supports M.H.'s motion
for legal custody and that he believes placing the children
in M.H.'s legal custody is in their best interest. Groff
explained that between the time the agency filed its
dependency complaints and the end of July 2017, the mother
made little effort to comply with the case plan. He stated
that the mother did not demonstrate "a lot of
consistency or much participation." Groff indicated that
within the last thirty days, the mother intensified her
efforts to comply with the case plan and now mostly is in
7} Groff further testified, however, that both the mother and
the stepfather are unemployed. Groff stated that when he last
spoke with the mother a few weeks earlier, the mother
indicated that she earned income by "giv[ing]
plasma." Groff additionally explained that the
mother's current lease expires at the end of September
2017, and that she has yet to secure additional housing.
8} Pam Moody, the children's guardian ad litem, testified
that she believes placing the children in M.H.'s legal
custody is in their best interest. Moody explained that the
children get along well with M.H. and indicated that they
would like to live with M.H. Moody stated that the children
do not want to return home to their mother.
9} Moody does not believe that the mother made an effort to
comply with the case plan. She stated that the mother's
drug screens returned positive for cocaine and opioids. Moody
additionally explained that both the mother and the
stepfather take prescription drugs and claim that they have
cancer "but they're not sure which kind." Moody
related that the mother also professed to have a rare blood
disorder; to be bipolar; and to have personality disorders,
paranoid schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.
10} Moody testified that during the mother's visits with
the children, the mother promises the children that they will
return home and that they can get a dog. Moody indicated that
the agency admonished the mother and told her not to make
promises; but the mother did not listen. Moody also revealed
that during visits with the children, the mother and the
stepfather use foul language and denigrate the caseworkers.
11} M.H. testified that she has been involved with the
children since they were born. She related that the children
are happy in her home and that the children do not want to
return to their mother.
12} The mother stated that she would like her children
returned to her "[m]ore than anything in the
world." The mother believes that she has done
"everything [she] could do" over the past two years
to "[t]ry to change [her] way of thinking, try to change
[her] lifestyle, turn around make [her] life better for
[her]self and [her] children." She indicated that when
she was in prison, she engaged in mental health counseling
and did "everything they had to offer so [she] could
understand more about what [she] needed to do with
[her]self." The mother also claimed that (1) she
attended a parenting program through her church, (2) since
May or June she has been attending AA, and (3) she currently
engages in counseling at Behavioral Health Group.
13} The mother explained that when her current lease expires,
she intends to stay with her sister until she locates a new
residence. She stated that she has sufficient means to care
for the children. The mother related that she earns income by
cleaning houses and that she receives food stamps and medical
and housing assistance.
14} The mother testified that she does not believe the court
should place the children in M.H.'s legal custody
"[b]ecause * * * they're my children." She
claimed that she has done "everything" that she can
and that she has "completed the case plan but it's
still not good enough." The mother does not doubt that
M.H. provides the children with proper care; but she believes
that as the children's mother, the children should be
placed with her.
15} On September 7, 2017, the trial court granted M.H. legal
custody of the children. The court noted that the mother
recently made some progress towards reunification but
ultimately concluded that:
[t]he mother's failure to timely complete the case plan,
to effectively engage in meaningful counseling, to
participate in drug treatment, to test clean for drug usage
on a consistent basis, to have positive visitation
experiences with the child, to engage in appropriate adult
parent behavior during visits, her self-acknowledged mental
health issues and to put into place any parenting skills that
she might have learned all demonstrate that mother is not a
proper custodian at this time.
court found that M.H., on the other hand, "provides an
environment for positive, meaningful interrelationships with
family, a productive positive educational environment and a
safe, healthy home environment." The court thus placed
the children in M.H.'s legal custody.