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In re S.S.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

June 13, 2018

IN RE: S.S. H.S. A.S.

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE Nos. DN 15-07-494, DN 15-05-282, DN 15-05-281

          JAMES K. REED, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN DIMARTINO, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          LYNNE S. CALLAHAN JUDGE.

         {¶1} Appellant, A.Z. ("Mother"), appeals from a judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, that terminated her parental rights to three of her minor children and placed them in the permanent custody of Summit County Children Services Board ("CSB"). This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} Mother is the biological mother of eleven children, but only her three youngest children are at issue in this appeal. The children's father ("Father") did not appeal from the trial court's judgment.

         {¶3} Mother gave birth to her oldest two children while she was a teenager and, for reasons not clear from the record, those children were placed in the legal custody of the maternal grandmother many years ago. During September 2014, CSB opened an involuntary case with the six children then in Mother's custody because of the deplorable condition of Mother's home, her history with children services agencies in other counties, her inability to meet the children's basic needs, and because she was living with and exposing her children to Father and another man, both of whom had been convicted of felony sex offenses. Although Father was not the father of any of those children, he was included on the case plan because he resided in the home with Mother. During that case, Mother continued to reside with Father and failed to work on the reunification requirements of the case plan.

         {¶4} On April 1, 2015, Mother gave birth to S.S., H.S., and A.S. at 32 weeks gestation. All three children required tube feeding and were transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at Akron Children's Hospital. Because Mother was not visiting the triplets regularly and had pending dependency and neglect cases with CSB pertaining to the six older children, S.S., H.S., and A.S. were removed from her custody before they were released from the hospital.

         {¶5} Because A.S. was the smallest child and required more extensive medical care, she remained in the hospital two months longer than S.S. and H.S. CSB filed complaints to remove each child from Mother's custody during May and July 2015, when they were scheduled to be released from the hospital. All three children were later adjudicated dependent, placed in the temporary custody of CSB, and have resided together in the same foster home throughout this case.

         {¶6} The case plan in this case required, among other things, that Mother engage in parenting classes and mental health counseling to address her multiple mental health diagnoses and demonstrate an ability to meet her children's basic and special needs. After their release from the hospital, the children continued to require specialized medical care and therapy throughout this case. A.S. has had difficulty swallowing and required specialized feeding, the children have other medical problems, and all three have developmental delays. Although Mother was encouraged to attend their medical and therapy appointments, she did not consistently do so. During the first year of this case, Mother also failed to consistently engage in counseling, obtain stable housing, or work on other reunification requirements of the case plan.

         {¶7} During March 2017, while this case was still pending, the juvenile cases involving six of Mother's older children led to the termination of her parental rights to five of them. The sixth child was placed in the legal custody of the maternal grandmother, who already had custody of Mother's two oldest children.

         {¶8} CSB had already moved for permanent custody of S.S., H.S., and A.S., but, after the trial court involuntarily terminated Mother's parental rights to the five older siblings, CSB amended the motion to add that ground. See R.C. 2151.414(E)(11) and (D)(1)(e). A dispositional hearing was held before a visiting judge on the motions for permanent custody and the parents' alternative requests for legal custody of the children.

         {¶9} At the hearing, the parties agreed that, at the time CSB filed its first motion for permanent custody during November 2016, S.S., H.S., and A.S. had been in the temporary custody of CSB for at least 12 months of a consecutive 22-month period. See R.C. 2151.414(B)(1)(d). The only contested issue at the hearing was whether it was in the best interest of the children to be placed in the legal custody of one or both parents or in the permanent custody of CSB.

         {¶10} After the hearing, but before the trial court issued a dispositional decision, this Court affirmed the termination of Mother's parental rights to five of her older children. In re T.Z., 9th Dist. Summit No. 28595, 2017-Ohio-7592. Shortly afterward, the trial court issued its judgment in this case, terminating parental rights and granting permanent custody of S.S., H.S., and A.S. to ...


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