Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE R.M., ET AL. Minor Children Appeal by T.C., Mother
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case Nos. AD18903384 and AD18903385
Staley, for appellant.
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, Rachel Eisenberg and Cheryl Rice, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
LASTER MAYS, J.
1} The appellant T.C., mother of two minor children,
appeals the juvenile court's decision that it is in the
best interest of her children, R.M. and B.D., to be placed in
the permanent custody of the Cuyahoga County Department of
Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS"). The mother
asks this court to reverse the juvenile court's decision
and remand for further proceedings. As required by App.R.
11.1(D), this court has expedited the hearing and disposition
of this appeal. We affirm.
2} This case involves two children, R.M. and B.D. On
March 13, 2018, CCDCFS received an ex parte telephonic order
of removal of the children. On March 14, 2018, CCDCFS was
granted temporary emergency custody of the children after the
juvenile court found B.D. to be abused and R.M. a dependent.
On May 29, 2018, T.C. stipulated to an amended complaint, and
B.D. was adjudicated abused and R.M. was adjudicated
dependent. The maternal grandmother, or alternatively, the
maternal great-grandmother of the children, filed for legal
custody on June 6, 2018. However, they failed to appear at
the September 27, 2018 hearing for permanent custody, and
permanent custody of the children was granted to CCDCFS.
Facts and Procedural History
3} On March 13, 2018, CCDCFS removed the children
from T.C.'s care after B.D. was found with bruises and
scratches throughout his body. B.D. had previously been in
CCDCFS' care and was returned to the care of T.C. a few
months before the discovery of the bruises. T.C. had been
previously offered domestic violence counseling, mental
health services, and parenting education. T.C. has three
other children that were removed from her custody due to her
mental health issues.
4} At the September 27, 2018 hearing, Marilyn
Perkins ("Perkins"), an employee at University
Settlement, testified regarding her observations of T.C. with
her children. Perkins explained that University Settlement
"is a community agency which we have one of the programs
called Family-to-Family through the Department of Children
and Family Services where we have visitations at our
location." (Tr. 15.) The goal of the Family-to-Family
program is "to provide resources for the families and to
try and stabilize families." Id. In 2013,
Perkins began observing T.C. with B.D., who was an infant at
the time. Perkins testified that when T.C. brought B.D. to
University Settlement, T.C. would continuously talk on her
phone. (Tr. 17.) Perkins also testified that these observed
visits continued for eight months to a year, and they stopped
because Perkins thought that B.D. was removed from T.C.'s
custody. However, in 2018 the case was reopened, and
University Settlement resumed observed visits with T.C. This
time T.C. brought B.D. and R.M. At the time the supervised
visits resumed, R.M. was six months old and B.D. was five
5} Perkins testified that T.C. was not nurturing.
T.C. would not hold R.M. to feed her, and when Perkins
suggested that T.C. hold R.M. to bottle feed her, T.C. stated
that R.M. needed to learn how to hold her own bottle. Perkins
also stated that T.C. was not consistent with her
visitations, and would not call in advance to let Perkins
know she would be absent. Due to T.C.'s missed
visitations, University Settlement, in accordance with their
policy, cancelled the visitations.
6} After Perkins, Karla Trammell
("Trammell"), an assistant care manager and
supervisor of the Family-to-Family program at University
Settlement, testified that she was concerned about one of the
visitations with T.C. and the children. She stated,
Yes, there were some concerns. [T.C.], when she would come
into the visits, she oftentimes would talk to the person
supervising the visit a lot and would have to be redirected
to focus on her children during her visitations. So I did
have a concern about that. There was a particular time where
[B.D.] came into the visitation and he was wearing shorts.
This is probably about the beginning of the summer, and she
kind of fussed at [B.D.] about having on shorts and told him
he shouldn't wear shorts because it was too cold. So I
had concerns about that, because he's not at the age
where he was dressing himself or picking out his own clothes,
7} Trammell also testified that T.C.'s behavior
towards the children was inappropriate. Trammell observed
that T.C. would get easily agitated with the children for
doing age-appropriate behaviors. Trammell stated,
For example, we have a rug in our room that has the ABCs.
It's a round rug. It has the ABCs and [B.D.] was going
around the rug and [T.C], you know, kind of disciplined him
and told him to sit down and fussed at him for going around
the rug. And at that point he was made to sit down and watch
a movie. He wanted to kind of play with games or toys, but
she wouldn't let him. Also, she wanted to take pictures
of [B.D.] and [R.M.]. [R.M.] was in a stroller and [B.D.] had
to bend down in order for her to get, you know, the picture.
At one point [B.D.] said his legs were hurting him and tried
to stand up. She physically tried to put him back down into
the position and he complained again that he didn't want
to stand in that position because it was starting to hurt.
[T.C] told him that he was being lazy and told him, you know,
she wanted to take the picture. At that point I suggested
that they stop taking the pictures and do something else. So
that was concerning to me. And at the end of that visit I did
speak with [T.C] about, you know, the concerns I had. * * *
Also at one point she let [R.M.] out of the stroller and
[R.M.] was crawling. She told [R.M.] to stop crawling and
tried to pull [R.M.] kind of closer to her. [R.M.] tried to
crawl again, and she told [R.M.], since you're not
listening, you'll go back in the stroller, and put her
back in the stroller, which, you know, at that age [R.M.] was
just doing what I thought was age-appropriate behavior.
8} As a result of Trammell's observations, she
wrote a letter detailing her concerns about T.C.'s
parenting. In addition to inappropriate behaviors towards
B.D. and R.M., Trammell observed T.C. not paying attention to
the children during visitations, but instead talking on her
phone. (Tr. 46.)
9} After Trammell's testimony, Gina Branco
("Branco"), an extended services case worker for
CCDCFS, testified that she took over T.C.'s case
management in April 2018. Branco testified that T.C.'s
involvement with CCDCFS began in 2013 with her three older
children and B.D. At the time Branco was assigned to
T.C.'s case, B.D. had been returned to T.C.'s custody
for four months before he was discovered with bruises
covering his entire body. Prior to the removal of B.D. and
R.M., T.C.'s three older children were removed from her
custody and placed with her mother in West Virginia, who was
granted permanent custody of the children.
10} Branco testified that T.C. was placed on a case
plan that included "parenting, mental health and
emotional stability, and domestic violence. The case plan was
also for [B.D.] for emotional stability for him to attend
therapy, and for [R.M.], for her to have Help Me Grow
referrals and any necessary medical care regarding mom."
11} Branco testified that prior to 2018, T.C. had
completed a parenting course. However, Branco, observed that
T.C. never applied what she learned in the course to her
actual parenting. (Tr. 56.) Branco observed T.C. with her
children at T.C.'s graduation from parenting class, and
testified that T.C.'s interaction with B.D. involved T.C.
yelling at B.D. for socializing with the other children and
ignoring B.D. while socializing with everyone else around
her. Branco also stated that CCDCFS attempted to provide T.C.
additional services to help with her parenting skills. Branco
testified, "[w]e tried another service through Ohio
Guidestone, it's called Nurturing Parenting. Nurturing
Parenting is a program that comes into the home and, you
know, helps more of a home-based parenting." (Tr. 60.)
However, T.C. refused the service.
12} Branco testified that it was difficult
communicating with T.C. about the children or the
agency's involvement with the children. Branco stated,
[d]iscussions with mom are difficult to have. She becomes
extremely irate really quickly and, you know, when I try to
have a discussion with her, it normally ends up with her
screaming at me and then hanging up. It's very difficult
to get any basic information across to [T.C] because she
becomes very upset very quickly, and then just, like I said,
hangs up the phone, doesn't want to hear what you have to
say and things like that. So I can't get - it's very
difficult to get basic information across to her, like when I
had to change the visits.
13} Branco testified that she changed T.C.'s
visits because T.C. failed to show up to scheduled
visitations with the children and would not call in advance
to notify them of her absence. On one occasion, Branco tried
contacting T.C, and she did not answer her phone. T.C. later
called Branco and told her that she overslept. Branco
explained to T.C. that she needed to attend next week's
visitation. T.C. failed to show for the next visitation with
the children. University Settlement cancelled the visitation
program. Blanco called T.C, and T.C. became angry and hung up
on Blanco. Blanco's supervisor then called T.C. to inform
her that the visits were rescheduled at another location,
where T.C. was receiving other services. Because of this,
Blanco thought that the new location would be more convenient
for T.C. However, T.C. failed to show for the visitation
14} Branco testified that T.C. does not have a
working vehicle or reliable transportation. T.C. does not
have a job or income, and does not give clear answers about
whether she is looking for a job. Branco also testified that
T.C. continues to have inappropriate interactions with her
children at visitations. Branco stated that B.D. completely
shuts down when he is around T.C, and as a result, Branco
requested that B.D.'s visits with T.C. stop because she
feels that they were harmful for him. Branco also testified
that B.D. told her that he hates visits, and she had observed
that B.D. has completely bonded with his foster family.
15} In addition to parenting courses, CCDCFS
referred T.C. to domestic violence classes, which she
completed. However, T.C. still maintains a relationship with
S.D., the alleged father of B.D., who is known to be
physically abusive towards T.C. in front of the children.
(Tr. 76.) T.C. and S.D. live in the same home, and S.D.,
although given opportunities to do so, has refused to comply
with CCDCFS and the parenting plan. S.D. has not established
paternity of R.M.
16} Another component of T.C.'s case plan is
mental health services. Branco stated, "[t]here had been
some behaviors that we believe are questionable and would
like to have assessed through a mental health professional.
She's also disclosed in the past to other workers that
she has bipolar disorder, so we needed to see an assessment
to see what type of services were necessary." (Tr.
78-79.) Branco testified that T.C. had not completed her
mental health services. (Tr. 80.)
17} Branco also expressed concern with T.C.'s
emotional stability. She stated,
I go back to the phone calls. She calls and she'll yell
and scream into my voicemail or on my phone, or I'll come
into, you know, 50 missed calls from T.C. in a short period
of a few hours if I'm not at my desk. I've also been
on the phone before and will watch her phone calls keep
coming through and through and through. And I've called
her back and said, T.C, just please leave me a message. Call
me one time. I will return your call. You know, there's
no need to call me 50 times in a row. I will return your call
every time. She will become like belligerent on the phone and
yell, scream, hang up. I've seen her interactions with
her kids. They're not appropriate for a parent to have
with their children.
18} When asked why CCDCFS asked for permanent
custody instead of continued temporary custody, Branco
Because these children keep coming back into custody for
abuse and neglect, so asking for temporary custody when
services have been completed not once, but twice, and in some
cases more services have come into play, and there hasn't
been anything gained from these services, and we're, you
know, taking custody four months after reunification for
countless bruises that can't be identified for putting
them back in that home is not safe for them. * * * We
can't just keep giving chance after chance after chance.
I mean, at some point the safety factor is just not there.
We've given her time. We've given her time since
2013. She had [B.D.] out of her custody. She regained custody
of [B.D.]. [B.D.] came back into custody. I, as the