Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION
Case Nos. 17-D000046 and 17-D000047
Bui, Joshua G. Burns, attorney for children David C. Wagner,
for appellant, R.S.
& Duning, John C. Kaspar, for appellee, R.S.
P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kathryn M.
Horvath, for appellee, Warren County Children Services
1} Appellant, the biological mother
("Mother") of L.S. and D.S. (referred to
collectively as the "children"), appeals the
decisions of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas,
Juvenile Division, adjudicating the children abused and
dependent, temporarily suspending Mother's visitation,
and granting legal custody of the children to their
biological father ("Father").
2} On April 24, 2017, Warren County Children
Services ("WCCS") filed complaints alleging the
children were abused and dependent. Specifically, WCCS
alleged it received an anonymous referral concerning
Mother's mental health and illegal drug use, including an
attempted suicide in the presence of the children and the
presence of a methamphetamine lab at Mother's residence.
Based on the referral, WCCS and police responded to
Mother's residence on April 8, 2017. Mother denied the
allegations, refused to submit to a drug screen, and refused
to agree to a safety plan.
3} WCCS returned to Mother's residence on April
10, 2018, but Mother and her paramour would not let the
caseworker exit her vehicle. On April 17, 2018, Father
contacted WCCS and reported that he received a photograph of
a text message depicting Mother informing her paramour she
almost overdosed in front of D.S. On April 19, 2018, WCCS
returned to Mother's residence and Mother submitted a
drug screen positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines.
Mother admitted to using methamphetamine the day before the
test. The complaint further provided that Mother and her
paramour had been evicted from their residence.
4} The juvenile court held a shelter care hearing on
the date of the filing of the complaints. At the conclusion
of the hearing, the juvenile court placed the children in the
temporary custody of Father and granted protective
supervision to WCCS. The juvenile court ordered that Mother
complete a drug and alcohol evaluation, submit to random drug
screens, and complete a psychological evaluation. The
juvenile court ordered Father to submit to random drug
screens and complete a mental health evaluation.
5} On July 11 and 17, 2017, the juvenile court held
adjudicatory hearings. Vanessa Henson, an investigative
caseworker for WCCS, testified regarding the April 8, 2017
referral and the facts asserted in the complaints. Henson
explained that on April 8, 2017 she did not observe a
methamphetamine lab in the residence. Mother informed Henson
that Tommy Steele resided with her and helped care for the
children. Mother stated she was aware of Steele's history
of illegal drug use and his recent arrest for drug-related
charges. Mother reported she was diagnosed with severe
anxiety, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"), and schizoaffective disorder. Mother was
not currently taking any medications for her mental health
diagnoses. Mother also informed Henson of an ongoing private
custody case with Father.
6} Henson met with Father on April 10, 2017. Father
reported that his relationship with Mother ended in November
2016. Father expressed concern regarding Mother's illegal
drug use and failure to stay current with bill payments.
Father reported an incident that occurred before their
relationship ended where Mother threatened to commit suicide
in front of the children if Father did not leave work and
come home. Father submitted a drug screen that was negative
for illegal substances.
7} Deputy Christopher Brombaugh of the Warren County
Sheriff's Office testified that on April 11, 2017, he
responded to a gas station in Franklin, Ohio for a reported
drug overdose. Upon arrival, Brombaugh discovered Mother
unconscious and emergency medical personnel treating Mother
with Narcan. Following the incident, Mother's paramour
received a text message from Mother's phone number
claiming she almost overdosed in front of D.S. Mother's
paramour photographed the text message and sent it to Father.
Father sent the photograph to Henson approximately one week
after the incident.
8} Henson testified she returned to Mother's
residence on April 19, 2017 during Mother's eviction.
Henson testified Mother submitted a positive drug screen.
Mother admitted to using methamphetamine the day before and
agreed to let the children stay with Father. However, on
April 24, 2017, Mother and her paramour visited the WCCS
office and demanded another drug screen. Mother informed
Henson she was no longer in agreement with the voluntary
safety plan. Henson described Mother's demeanor as high
energy and distracted. Henson perceived her demeanor as a
sign of potential mental health concerns or illegal drug use.
9} Mother testified and denied using
methamphetamines, amphetamines, and opiates. Mother disputed
the validity of the results of her positive drug screens. She
explained that she would voluntarily submit to another drug
screen conducted by any entity besides WCCS. Mother also
disputed the testimony regarding her threats of suicide and
the drug overdose and stated, "[s]eems that
everybody's fabricating a lot * * *." With respect
to mental health, Mother explained she has prior diagnoses
for anxiety and PTSD. At the time of adjudication, Mother
admitted she was homeless and had been staying "with a
few friends here and there, kind of, bounc[ing] around."
10} Mother's paramour testified he had never
seen Mother use methamphetamine. While he admitted sending
the text message to Father regarding Mother's overdose,
he questioned the accuracy of the text message and that
Mother was in fact the person who sent it. Mother's
paramour submitted a drug screen to WCCS that was positive
for methamphetamines and amphetamines. He likewise denied
using illegal drugs and asserted WCCS fabricated the drug
11} At the conclusion of the hearings, the juvenile
court adjudicated the children abused and dependent, pursuant
to R.C. 2151.031(B) and R.C. 2151.04(C), respectively. On
July 21, 2017, the juvenile court held a dispositional
hearing. Pursuant to its complaints, WCCS sought temporary
custody of the children to Father and protective supervision
12} WCCS supervisor, Ashley Stutzman, testified that
following removal of the children, the agency developed a
case plan with services for Mother and Father. Mother refused
to sign the case plan. Stutzman testified that Mother
continued to deny illegal drug use and mental health issues.
WCCS made referrals for Mother in April 2017, but Mother
failed to complete the assessments for such referrals. Mother
returned drug screens in April, May, twice in June, and July,
that were all positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines.
Mother attended supervised visits with the children, but
Stutzman expressed concerns with her inability to focus,
arriving late, and leaving early. Based on Mother's
behavior, WCCS had concerns she may have been under the
influence of illegal drugs during visitation. Stutzman
testified WCCS was seeking to suspend Mother's visitation
until Mother could alleviate the concerns based on her
engagement in case plan services.
13} At the time of disposition, Father had completed
all his case plan services. Father had no recommendations
from his drug and alcohol assessment and was recommended for
individual counseling from his mental health assessment.
Father was currently engaged with this recommendation and had
provided no positive drug screens throughout the pendency of
this case. Stutzman testified that she would be comfortable
with the juvenile court granting legal custody to Father.
Father testified he was seeking legal custody of the children
and his attorney made an oral motion for legal custody during
the dispositional hearing.
14} Mother testified the children should be returned
to her custody. Mother denied having any mental health or
substance abuse issues. Mother again disputed the results of
her prior drug screens and expressed her distrust for WCCS.
Mother explained that she would provide the juvenile court a
negative drug screen that day, but refused to submit a drug
screen to WCCS based on her distrust for the agency. However,
when the juvenile ...