Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull
IN THE MATTER OF: J.L., L.L., AND C.L., DEPENDENT CHILDREN.
from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile
Division, Case No. 2015 CH 00017.
L Engler, Engler Law Firm, (For Appellant, Rebecca Horton).
Richardson, Trumbull County Children Services Board, (For
Michael R. Babyak, (Guardian ad litem).
CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, J.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The children's father signed a voluntary permanent
surrender of parental rights to the agency.
The permanent custody trial was held by the magistrate on
nine days between February 8, 2017 and May 10, 2017.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Ms. Markakis attempted to talk to mother, but she was so
irate, Ms. Markakis could not carry on a civil conversation
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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 ...