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In re S.K.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette

June 10, 2019

IN RE: S.K., et al.

          APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case Nos. AND20160488 thru AND20160494, 17AND0289, and 18AND0271

          Jess C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, Sean M. Abbott, for appellee, Fayette County Children Services

          Kathryn Hapner, for appellant, Mother 1 Steven H. Eckstein, for appellant, Mother 2

          OPINION

          HENDRICKSON, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Appellants, the mother of S.K., Ch.K., K.K., Jo.K., Ca.K., and B.B. ("Mother 1") and the mother of Ja.K., R.K., and L.K. ("Mother 2"), appeal the decision of the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of their nine respective children to appellee, Fayette County Children Services ("FCCS"). For the reasons outlined below, we affirm the juvenile court's decision.

         The Parties

         {¶ 2} There are nine children at issue in this case. Mother 1 is the mother of S.K., born May 1, 2006, Ch.K, born October 12, 2007, K.K., born December 25, 2009, Jo.K., born October 3, 2011, Ca.K., born August 27, 2013, and B.B., born May 15, 2016. Mother 2 is the mother of Ja.K., born June 24, 2016, R.K., born May 20, 2017, and L.K., born May 8, 2018. With the exception of B.B., the other eight children were all fathered by the same man ("Father"). Neither Father nor B.B.'s father is a party to this appeal.

         {¶ 3} The record indicates Mother 1 and Father are married. Father, however, is now in a relationship with Mother 2. Although now separated, the record also indicates Mother 1, Mother 2, and Father had all lived together with the children in the same home. And, after being evicted from that home, Mother 1, Mother 2, and Father all moved into a homeless shelter with the children. Mother 1 now lives with her boyfriend in a four-bedroom duplex, whereas Mother 2, who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and Father, who has been diagnosed as bipolar, live with a disabled couple in a one-bedroom apartment.

         FCCS's Complaints and the Juvenile Court's Adjudications and Dispositions

         {¶ 4} On August 30, 2016, FCCS filed six complaints alleging Mother 1's six children, S.K., Ch.K., K.K., Jo.K., Ca.K., and B.B., were neglected and dependent children. FCCS also filed a complaint alleging Mother 2's then only child, Ja.K., was a neglected and dependent child. In support, FCCS alleged it had received reports that the children were seen "unsupervised around town and begging for food." Upon contacting Mother 1, Mother 2, and Father, FCCS alleged Mother 1 and Mother 2 claimed their respective children were with a "friend." Mother 1 and Mother 2, however, only knew "the person's first name with no idea of her last name or even the street where she lived."

         {¶ 5} FCCS also alleged that Mother 1, Mother 2, and Father had recently been evicted from Mother 1's home where they lived with their then seven respective children. As noted above, upon being evicted, FCCS alleged the entire family moved into a homeless shelter. However, "the shelter stated they did not supervise or discipline any of the children and the shelter removed the family * * * for not following the rules." Upon being removed from the homeless shelter, FCCS alleged "the family has moved from house to house" and that the children went back out on the streets begging for food.

         {¶ 6} FCCS alleged Mother 2 had since left Ja.K. with his grandfather. The child's grandfather, however, did not have any of the necessary supplies to take care of Ja.K. FCCS also alleged that Ja.K.'s grandfather could not properly care for the child due to a recent car accident. Due to the child's appearance, FCCS further alleged that it was concerned about Ja.K.'s health and well-being in that he appeared "to be failure to thrive." These concerns were further exacerbated by the fact Mother 2 only had one bottle to feed Ja.K, "which was not clean." FCCS also alleged that while feeding Ja.K., Mother 2 "had to remove objects from the bottle, and [Ja.K.] did not continue to drink the bottle."

         {¶ 7} FCCS alleged that it had also received reports of domestic violence between Mother 1, Mother 2, and Father. FCCS further alleged the children "have received no medical attention and have not been enrolled in school." This includes Ja.K. who FCCS alleged Mother 2 had not taken to see a doctor since his birth. Concluding, FCCS alleged that Father was reportedly suffering from mental health issues, whereas Mother 2 "admits she suffers from post-partum depression." Due to these concerns, FCCS alleged there was "a present and ongoing threat of harm" to the children.

         {¶ 8} Upon receiving FCCS's complaints, the juvenile court granted FCCS's request for emergency temporary custody of all seven children. Three of the children were then placed with relatives, whereas the other four children were placed in foster care. Following a hearing on the matter, the juvenile court issued an entry detailing the facts and circumstances that led to the children's removal. As noted by the juvenile court, this included concerns from FCCS regarding the parties' subpar living conditions, homelessness, and the "lack of supervision of the children." The juvenile court also noted that the five oldest children all had headlice upon their removal and that "[t]he four oldest children are school age but had not been enrolled in school, despite the fact that the school year had already commenced." The juvenile court further noted that Mother 1 and Mother 2 had both reported that Father had anger issues.

         {¶ 9} On September 28, 2016, a guardian ad litem was appointed for the children. Approximately one month later, the juvenile court adjudicated all seven children as dependent. A case plan was then established. The case plan required each parent to obtain and maintain stable housing, employment, and verifiable income, as well as complete parenting classes and any necessary mental health treatment. The juvenile court thereafter issued a dispositional decision that awarded temporary custody of the children to FCCS. The juvenile court's corresponding entry noted that "[t]he parents have not made much progress on their case plans." The juvenile court also noted that many of the children exhibited behavioral issues upon their removal from their respective parents' care. This includes two of the children killing a rabbit, as well as numerous instances of lying and stealing.

         {¶ 10} On May 16, 2017, the juvenile court held a review hearing. Following this hearing, the juvenile court issued an entry noting that five of the children were now placed in foster care, whereas two of the children were placed with relatives. The juvenile court also noted that the children's respective parents had completed parenting classes and that both Father and B.B.'s father were employed. Mother 1, however, "was working but lost her job last month." The juvenile court further noted that Mother 2, who was not working at that time, was then pregnant with what would become Father's seventh child, R.K.

         {¶ 11} In addition to these findings, the juvenile court noted that Mother 1, Mother 2, and Father had not yet completed their required mental health assessments and that Mother 2 and Father had missed their last two scheduled visits with the children. The juvenile court also noted in regard to the possibility of the children being returned to their respective parents:

The agency does not believe that the children can be returned home at this time. [Father] has not addressed his mental health issues. [Mother 2] has not shown that she can provide for herself. She is the victim of domestic violence from [Father]. [Mother 1] and [B.B.'s father] each have housing issues.

         {¶ 12} On May 20, 2017, Mother 2 gave birth to R.K. Later that day, FCCS filed a complaint alleging R.K. was a dependent child. In support, FCCS noted that R.K.'s older brother, Ja.K., was then in its temporary custody and had been for nearly a year. FCCS also alleged that both Mother 2 and Father had still not completed their required mental health assessments. FCCS alleged the same was true in regard to Father's domestic violence classes. FCCS further alleged that Mother 2 and Father "had no food or belongings in their home with which to properly care for a newborn baby" and that they were then "sleeping in the same hospital bed with [R.K.] in the bed."

         {¶ 13} On May 23, 2017, the juvenile court granted emergency temporary custody of R.K. to FCCS. Approximately two weeks later, the juvenile court issued a judgment entry that addressed its prior emergency order regarding R.K. As part of this entry, the juvenile court noted that Mother 2 and Father had completed their parenting classes and had obtained housing. The entry also noted that Father had obtained employment through a temporary agency. But, as noted by the juvenile court, Father "ha[d] not been employed there long enough to demonstrate financial stability." The juvenile court further noted in regard to Father's mental health:

The case plan required [Father] to get a mental health assessment and follow up on any recommendations. He has self-reported being diagnosed with schizophrenia and multi-personality disorder. The two mothers of his children, and other relatives have reported [Father] to be the perpetrator of physical and verbal domestic violence. [Father] has given conflicting accounts of how long he has gone without taking his mental health medication. He reported that he was only off his medication for two weeks, that he sees a doctor * * * and that he gets his medication at emergency rooms. Mental health reports [note] that [Father] has been off his medication since 2015. He has not submitted any documentation that he has had a mental health assessment or undergone any counseling.

         {¶ 14} On July 6, 2017, the juvenile court adjudicated R.K. a dependent child. Approximately five weeks later, the juvenile court issued a dispositional decision that awarded temporary custody of R.K. to FCCS. The juvenile court also appointed R.K. with a guardian ad litem. Several months later, following another review hearing, the juvenile court issued an entry that noted the parties had stipulated that temporary custody of all eight of their children should remain with FCCS "to allow the parents to have more time to work their case plans."

         {¶ 15} The guardian ad litem submitted a report with the juvenile court that same day. As part of that report, the guardian ad litem noted in regard to Mother 1:

One of the mothers, [Mother 1], now has a home with her boyfriend. They live in a duplex. They want to move the boyfriend's mother out of the nursing home and into the other side of the duplex. [Mother 1 ] wants to be the caregiver for the boyfriend's mother who is morbidly obese and missing one leg. The boyfriend's mother also has her own seven page history with the agency. [Mother 1] is working at Bob Evans and making approximately $100 per week. When [Mother 1] visits the children, she is responsible for bringing them dinner. She usually does not provide enough food for all the children, i.e. one bag of pizza rolls for [her six] kids.

         {¶ 16} The guardian ad litem also noted in regard to Mother 2 and Father:

[Father and Mother 2] are still together. They had joined the traveling fair and moved to Tennessee. They would travel from Tennessee once a week to attend their visit. They have returned to Ohio and live in a one-bedroom home with two other people [Father] refers to as "Aunt and Uncle." The Aunt has a toilet chair in the middle of the living room and uses a walker. The Aunt told the worker that the children can reside there with them and they would sleep in their bedroom in between the hospital bed. [Father and Mother 2] work at Kroger stocking shelves. ...

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