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In re J.L.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull

May 29, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF: J.L., L.L., AND C.L., DEPENDENT CHILDREN.

          Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 2015 CH 00017.

          David L Engler, Engler Law Firm, (For Appellant, Rebecca Horton).

          Tammy Richardson, Trumbull County Children Services Board, (For Appellee).

          Michael R. Babyak, (Guardian ad litem).

          OPINION

          CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Rebecca Horton ("mother"), appeals the judgment of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting the motion of appellee, Trumbull County Children Services Board ("the agency"), for permanent custody. At issue is whether the judgment was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶2} On May 6, 2015, Juv.R. 6 was exercised, placing mother's children, J.L., age 12; L.L., age 10; and C.L., age nine, into foster care.

         {¶3} On May 7, 2015, the agency filed a dependency complaint and a motion for ex parte temporary custody of the children. The ex parte motion was granted the same day.

         {¶4} The children were adjudicated dependent and, by court order, placed into the agency's temporary custody on June 11, 2015. On April 28, 2016, the court granted a six-month extension of temporary custody to the agency. On October 5, 2016, the court granted a second six-month extension of temporary custody to the agency.

         {¶5} On October 21, 2016, the agency filed a motion for permanent custody of the children. No other motions for custody were filed on behalf of the parties or relatives.

         {¶6} The children's father signed a voluntary permanent surrender of parental rights to the agency.

         {¶7} The permanent custody trial was held by the magistrate on nine days between February 8, 2017 and May 10, 2017.

         {¶8} Daphne Markakis, an agency caseworker, testified that in the spring of 2015, the agency received three referrals regarding the children, who were living with mother at the time. The first referral came in shortly before May 1, 2015, and involved concerns regarding mother's alcohol abuse and her mental health issues.

         {¶9} The second referral was received on May 1, 2015, alleging that mother was highly intoxicated at L.L.'s school talent show. The referral also involved concerns that mother was making the children walk to West Virginia.

         {¶10} The third referral was received one week after the second, and alleged mother tried to drown C.L., the youngest child, in the bathtub and that mother was getting rid of all their possessions.

         {¶11} After a determination was made that the agency had enough evidence to take custody of the children, Ms. Markakis removed them from school and they went with her willingly. They said they were afraid to go home because they were concerned mother would make them walk to West Virginia with her and they did not want to go.

         {¶12} After the children were removed, Ms. Markakis went to mother's home. Ms. Markakis said the home was so cluttered, she could barely walk through it. There were dirty clothes, blankets, bugs, and flies "all over the place." Stuffed boxes were on the curb along with the family's furniture and mattresses. The children's bedrooms had no furniture in them and the children were sleeping at night in a tent in the backyard.

         {¶13} Ms. Markakis attempted to talk to mother, but she was so irate, Ms. Markakis could not carry on a civil conversation with her.

         {¶14} At the agency, Ms. Markakis talked to the children. They said mother was throwing out their things to prepare for their walk to West Virginia. The children were frightened and confused about mother's decision to do this.

         {¶15} L.L. told Ms. Markakis about the recent talent show at school. She said she knew mother was drunk at the time because she was screaming and clapping loudly, although no one else was. L.L. said the principal tried to talk to mother and eventually asked her to leave. Mother became angry and dragged L.L. out of the school before her performance.

         {¶16} The children told Ms. Markakis about the bathtub incident in which mother tried to drown C.L. in early May 2015. C.L., then nine years old, said that mother was yelling at him for something he did that day. While he was in the bathtub, she was pushing his head under the water and he was fighting with her to try to get her to stop.

         {¶17} J.L., then age 12, and J.L., age 10, were not in the bathroom at that time, but they said they heard C.L. screaming and crying, but were too afraid to intervene.

         {¶18} The agency's caseworker, Jared Wert, testified that, as of the date of his testimony, the children had been in foster care for nearly two years. He said the children were also removed from mother twice in Mahoning County in 2010. They were first removed in September 2010 for a short time due to concerns that the children's parents had engaged in domestic violence and, again, in October 2010 for a year and a half due to concerns that mother was "out of control" and "under the influence" of alcohol and was "a danger to the children."

         {¶19} Mr. Wert testified that under the original case plan, which was filed in this case on June 2, 2015, mother was required to complete a drug and alcohol assessment; to submit to random urine screens within two hours of a request by a caseworker; to complete a psychological evaluation; and to maintain employment, independent housing, and financial stability.

         {¶20} By February 2016, mother secured a part-time job at a scrap-hauling company, which she later lost; completed a psychological evaluation; and completed drug and alcohol treatment at Glenbeigh in December 2015.

         {¶21} However, Mr. Wert and the children still had concerns about mother's sobriety and mental health. After she completed treatment at Glenbeigh, she did not comply with numerous attempts to obtain random urine screens at her home, in violation of her case plan.

         {¶22} Mr. Wert said he has seen mother talking to herself in a bizarre manner during visitation at the agency. On one occasion, she was sitting by herself, saying "Leave me alone. Get out of here." On another occasion, while mother was talking to someone who was not there, she stated "big fat pig." Mr. Wert said that C.L. told him he is afraid to return home to mother because she talks to invisible people and to shadows. The two other children also said they saw mother talking to herself and this behavior frightens them.

         {¶23} Due to Mr. Wert's ongoing concerns about mother's mental health, he amended the case plan in April 2016 to require her to participate in a specialized ...


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