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In re M.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Ashland

July 27, 2018


          Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 20173002

          For Plaintiff-Appellant Mother EMILY M. BATES


          Hon. John W. Wise, P. J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., J.


          WISE, JOHN, P. J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant-Mother, J.H., appeals the February 2, 2018, Judgment Entry of the Court of Common Pleas of Ashland County, Ohio, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of her minor child to Appellee Ashland County Child Protective Services.


         {¶ 2} On November 13, 2014, M.H., (age one-year old) and his sibling C.H. (four-years old) were removed from the home of their mother by Children Services pursuant to an Ex Parte Order. A shelter care hearing was held in Ashland County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile Division, and said children were placed in the temporary custody of Appellee Ashland County Department of Job and Family Services, Children Services Division ("Children Services"). (11/18/14 Judgment Entry).

         {¶ 3} Also, on November 13, 2014, Children Services filed a complaint alleging that M.H. is a dependent child and sought temporary custody of him to Children Services.

         {¶ 4} The minor child, M.H. was born on July 2, 2013, to father, J.H., and mother J.H. Mother is the Appellant in the case at bar. A seven year-old sibling of M.H., C.H., was also adjudicated dependent under the facts of this case, but is not a subject of this appeal. The sibling C.H. suffers from autism, and Mother had indicated at the commencement of the permanent custody hearing that she believed that permanent custody was in C.H.'s best interest. The children's mother, J.H., suffers from mental health and cognitive limitations resulting from a traumatic brain injury. ( 79).

         {¶ 5} On January 29, 2015, an Amended Complaint was filed alleging that M.H. was a dependent child, including additional allegations. After an adjudicatory hearing on January 27, 2015, said child was found dependent pursuant to section 2151.04(C) of the Ohio Revised Code. (1/29/15 Mag. Dec).

         {¶ 6} On February 3, 2015, the court heard evidence on disposition. The court found it in the best interest of M.H. to be placed in the temporary custody of Children Services and decided accordingly. (2/13/15 Mag. Dec; 2/27/15 J.E.). On November 25, 2015, following a hearing, the court issued an order extending temporary custody for six months. On August 18, 2016, Children Services filed a motion seeking Permanent Custody of the sibling C.H., due in part to C.H.'s special needs. On August 1, 2016 Children Services filed a Motion requesting that M.H. be reunited with his mother.

         {¶ 7} The children have resided in foster care home since their removal from the home, except for two short time periods. The first instance was when the children were attempted to be placed with grandparents, and the second when M.H. was placed with Appellant-Mother in December, 2016.

         {¶ 8} The concerns in this case included the Mother's cognitive abilities and mental health needs, including the stresses of caring for C.H., a severely autistic child. The initial issues included home conditions and Mother's being overwhelmed with the children's needs such that she resorted to restraining them in a stroller and Pack-n-Play with shoelace material. (T at 249). Additional concerns included the mother's inability to focus and remain on task while caring for herself and the physical, educational, and medical needs of the children. (T. at 252-255, 257).

         {¶ 9} Appellant-Mother has cooperated and completed case plan objectives as requested by Children Services. The case plan included parenting education classes and mental health counseling for PTSD, depression, and anxiety. (T. at 259, 261). Reunification had been the agency's goal and was attempted when M.H. was placed in Mother's home on December 2, 2016, on a trial basis. (T. at 277).

         {¶ 10} On December 9, 2016, Caseworker Perkins visited the home for an announced visit. Id. M.H. was observed acting like a dog. (T. at 278). During this visit, the caseworker discussed the possibility of enrolling M.H. in preschool. Id. No concerns were noted for that visit. Id.

         {¶ 11} On December 19, 2016, the Caseworker made an unannounced visit to the home. Id. She observed that the home was dirty, very cluttered, and that Mother was babysitting for a one-year old child. (T. at 279). The Caseworker explained to Mother that the home needed to be better maintained. Id.

         {¶ 12} On January 12, 2017, the Caseworker again made contact following reports concerning deplorable home conditions and medical issues with M.H. (T. at 280-282). During the visit on January 12, 2017, the Caseworker observed that Mother appeared unkempt and unbathed, the apartment extremely dirty and had an odor of "rancid vomit". (T. at 284, Jan. 30, 2018 J/E at 11 ¶35). She observed that there was trash everywhere and curdled food in dishes. Id. Mother blamed the conditions on having recently had dental work done, on caring for an unrelated one-year old child, on her live-in boyfriend, on Children Services, and on four-year old M.H. (T. at 286). Also, while the Caseworker was present at the home on January 12, 2017, she observed that M.H. continued to act like a dog throughout the visit by crawling around on the floor, picking up things with his mouth and barking. (T. at 297).

         {¶ 13} The Guardian Ad Litem confirmed the Caseworkers observation, finding the home to have deteriorated substantially between visits. (Jan. 30, 2018 J/E at 11 ¶36) The GAL observed a strong odor, garbage, trash cans overflowing, dirty dishes, trash strewn everywhere. Id. The GAL also stated that she was unable to speak with M.H. because he was acting like a dog and would not talk. Id.

         {¶ 14} When the Caseworker inquired about reports of M.H. having headaches, Mother claimed that she took him to a doctor, and that M.H. had an ear infection. (T. at 290). However, Mother could not recall which doctor he saw or when she took him. (T. at 289). The Caseworker was later unsuccessful in verifying whether M.H. had seen any doctor. Id. Mother also admitted that she was caring for the one-year old daily and not only a couple days per week as she had previously stated to the Caseworker in December. (T. at 291-292).

         {¶ 15} On January 19, 2017, Children Services filed a motion seeking permanent custody of M.H. This change in the requested disposition was due to continued issues that arose during M.H.'s placement in Mother's home, which only became known in ...

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