Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE: O.S., ET AL. Minor Children
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case Nos. AD16915308 and AD16915309
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Leigh S. Prugh.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES For C.C.D.C.F.S. Michael C.
O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor BY: Cheryl Rice
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Marie C. Frey Michelle A.
Myers Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys
Guardian Ad Litem for Children Kimrey D. Elzeer Seeley
Savidge Ebert & Gourash Co., L.P.A.
Guardian Ad Litem for Mother Rachel A. Kopec, F.R., Alleged
Father, pro se 44104
BEFORE: Boyle, J., E.T. Gallagher, P.J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
J. BOYLE, J.
Appellant, M.S., appeals the juvenile court's order
granting appellee, Cuyahoga County Division of Child and
Family Services ("CCDCFS"), permanent custody of
her son, O.S., and her daughter, O.S. ("the
children"). M.S. raises two assignments of error for our
1. The juvenile court erred in permitting unauthenticated
medical records offered by CCDCFS into evidence.
2. The evidence submitted at disposition was insufficient to
be considered clear and convincing because the juvenile court
improperly considered unauthenticated evidence.
Finding no merit to her assignments of error, we affirm.
Procedural History and Factual Background
On November 12, 2008, M.S. gave birth to twins, O.S. and O.S.
According to medical records and by her own admission, M.S.
has bipolar disorder that she reported began when she was
around the age of 21.
In July 2012, CCDCFS removed the children from M.S.'s
custody after she had a "mental health episode[, ]"
during which she "couldn't articulate where the kids
could go" after she received an eviction notice and a
homeless shelter denied her entry. While the children were
reunited with M.S. 30 days later, the juvenile court granted
CCDCFS protective supervision over the children in January
2013. As part of her case plan, M.S. received treatment for
bipolar disorder from The Centers for Families and Children
(the "Centers") and became "compliant."
The juvenile court terminated CCDCFS's protective
supervision in February 2014.
On January 2, 2015, M.S. had another mental health related
episode, during which she "became belligerent with the
police[, ]" "was taken to the hospital[, ]"
and could not provide "any contacts for the
children." The children were taken to CCDCFS. As a
result of the incident, the juvenile court adjudicated one of
the twins dependent in May 2015 and the other twin dependent
in December 2015. The juvenile court also gave CCDCFS
temporary custody of the children. According to Earl Thomas,
the social worker from CCDCFS who has worked with M.S. and
the children since 2015, M.S. was "not complying with
her medication" at the time of the January 2015
incident, and CCDCFS developed a case plan to address
"mental health, parenting, domestic violence, and basic
needs." Eventually, M.S. became compliant with the
mental health requirements of her case plan after receiving
services from the Centers, including visits with a
psychologist and medication. As a result, M.S. was reunited
with her children on June 2, 2016. CCDCFS retained protective
supervision over the children, and M.S. and the children
continued to receive services for medication, mental health,
and family preservation.
On October 19, 2016, CCDCFS held a staff meeting with M.S.
and her children after learning that M.S. "wasn't
following through with the service providers" to
"have counseling for the kids and medication counseling
for herself." Thomas explained that during the meeting,
he learned that M.S. was "getting evicted and she
didn't have any lights or gas in the house" and that
M.S. told him that the house had become "rat and roach
infested." Thomas stated that the children told workers
that "they [were not] eating [at home]." According
to Thomas, during the meeting, M.S. became "upset,"
"stormed out of the room, threw her phone down the
hallway, [and] started punching the walls and the
glass," requiring CCDCFS workers to call security to
escort her from the building. Thomas testified that M.S. left
the building without her children. Thomas stated that later
that day, CCDCFS "got a call from the police stating
that they responded to mom's house because she was
outside half naked busting out windows. When the police got
there, she barricaded herself in the house, and * * *
eventually they got her to come out and they took her to St.
As a result, CCDCFS removed the children from M.S.'s
custody and filed a complaint for dependency and permanent
custody that same day. CCDCFS also filed a motion for
predispositional temporary custody. The trial court appointed
Kimrey Elzeer as the children's guardian ad litem. It
also appointed James Schulz as M.S.'s guardian ad litem.
Schulz was later replaced by Rachel Kopec, who took over as
M.S.'s guardian ad litem.
The trial court held a hearing on CCDCFS's motion for
temporary custody on the same day as removal, during which
Thomas testified. In addition to describing the previous two
removals of the children as well as the events that
transpired during the meeting with M.S. earlier that day,
Thomas explained that he had concerns about M.S.'s
ability to provide for her children's needs because
"there's limited food in the home, and when mom is
unstable with her medication, she's not in an appropriate
mindset to care for the kids appropriately." The trial
court granted CCDCFS's motion for predispositional
On January 6, 2017, the trial court held an adjudication
hearing. CCDCFS presented testimony from Thomas. The trial
court found the children to be dependent under R.C.
2151.04(B). The trial court then asked Thomas what efforts
were "being made to prevent the continued removal of
[the] children and to finalize their permanency plan."
Thomas explained that the children were in a foster home at
the time and receiving counseling services. After the trial
court asked what services M.S. was receiving, Thomas
explained that she was receiving a number of services with
the Centers, including medication and monitoring.
In its journal entry, the trial court stated, "The
[children are] adjudicated to be Dependent. The Court further
finds, pursuant to R.C. 2151.04 and R.C. 2151.28(L) that: the
[children lack] adequate parental care by reason of the
mental or physical condition of the child's parents,
guardian or custodian." The trial court also found that
the children's "continued residence in or return to
the home of mother * * * [would] be contrary to the
[children's] best interests]." The trial court noted
that the children "have been referred to engage in
counseling through Pathways. Mother is engaged in mental
health services through The Centers for Family and Children,
to receive counseling, case management, medication, and
monitoring." During the same hearing, the parties agreed
to waive the 90-day statutory time frame for disposition to
give M.S. "the opportunity to continue engaging in
services, to work the case plan, and possibly to get some
consistency with visitation[.]" The trial court then
continued the matter and ordered CCDCFS to file an amended
case plan for M.S. and to refer M.S. to undergo a permanent
custody evaluation with the trial court's diagnostic
On October 27, 2017, the trial court held a dispositional
hearing. CCDCFS presented testimony from Dr. Robert Kurtz, a
psychologist with the juvenile court's diagnostic clinic,
Thomas, and Elzeer, the children's guardian ad litem.
Dr. Kurtz testified that he interviewed M.S., the children,
the children's foster mother, and CCDCFS workers,
conducted psychological tests and questionnaires, and
observed interactions between M.S. and the children as part
of his psychological evaluation. He testified that he then
drafted a psychological report, which CCDCFS admitted as
Exhibit 2. Dr. Kurtz stated that he believed that M.S.
"was not ready to take full custody of her children
[because] * * * [s]he didn't have adequate housing for
her children[, ] * * * [h]er intellectual functioning meant
that she would have difficulty helping her children with
their academics success[, ] * * * and [h]er emotional
condition * * * was unstable." Dr. Kurtz also testified
that M.S. told him that when she has "mental health
problems, [she] can't help [herself] or the
children." He stated that M.S. expressed that "she
has difficulty communicating with her children."
Thomas testified that CCDCFS was requesting permanent custody
because, since 2015, M.S. had issues "with housing[, ] *
* * with the kids going to school on a consistent basis[, ] *
* * with [domestic violence, ] and * * * the inconsistency
for mom to take [her bipolar] medication and stay stable in
order to parent the kids appropriately." Thomas
described the mental health episodes from July 2012 and
January 2015 that led to CCDCFS removing the children from
M.S.'s custody. Thomas stated that M.S. had been
hospitalized "12 to 13 times" for psychiatric
issues between 2000 and 2015. He also explained that M.S.
received medication and psychiatric treatment from the
Centers to address her mental health issues. Thomas then
again testified as to M.S.'s violent behavior during the
staff meeting with CCDCFS staff members on October 19, 2016.
He stated that at that time, M.S. was not taking her
medication and did not have gas or lights at home. He also
testified that the children informed CCDCFS workers that they
"weren't eating on a regular basis" and that he
did not know whether M.S. had a source of income because she
does not work. Thomas also testified that during visits with
her children, M.S. is "[u]sually on her phone or just
sitting there[, ]" and that the children have
"anxiety about the visits[.]"
During Thomas's testimony, the following exchange
CCDCFS: Your Honor, may I approach the witness with what is