Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE Z.D. A Minor Child [Appeal by A.R., Mother]
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case No. AD 17 902707
Scalise Legal Services, L.L.C., and Stephanie B. Scalise, for
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, and Cheryl Rice and Warren W. Griffin, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
A JONES, SR., PRESIDING JUDGE
1} In this appeal, A.R., Mother
("Mother"), challenges the trial court's
October 2018 judgment granting the motion of appellee
Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services
("CCDCFS" or "Agency") for permanent
custody of her child, Z.D. For the reasons that follow, we
2} The child at issue, Z.D., was born in Ohio in
November 2016, to Mother and alleged Father,
Three days after the child was born, the Agency filed a
complaint alleging that the child was dependent and
requesting a disposition of temporary custody. The Agency
also filed a motion for emergency pre-dispositional temporary
custody, which was granted the same day.
3} The complaint was unable to be resolved within
the statutory 90-day timeframe, so CCDCFS filed a new
complaint for dependency and temporary custody, as well as a
motion for emergency custody in February 2017; the motion for
emergency custody was immediately granted.
4} After a hearing in May 2017, Z.D. was adjudicated
a dependent child. A dispositional hearing was also held in
May 2017, after which the child was committed to the
Agency's temporary custody. The matter was set for review
to take place in November 2017. Prior to the set November
date, however, the Agency filed a motion for an extension of
temporary custody in order to allow Mother additional time to
work on her case-plan objectives. CCDCFS's motion was
granted and temporary custody was extended until May 2018.
At the end of April 2018, the Agency filed a motion to modify
temporary custody. Three pretrials were held on the motion,
and the trial on the motion took place in October 2018. At
the start of the hearing, Mother's attorney requested a
continuance because Mother was not present and counsel sought
the continuance so that she could attend; the trial court
denied the request. At the conclusion of the trial, the court
granted the Agency's motion for permanent custody; it
thereafter memorialized its findings in a judgment entry.
Mother now appeals, asserting the following sole assignment
of error: "The trial court committed plain error by
relying almost exclusively on cumulative hearsay evidence to
support granting a motion for permanent custody to
6} The sole witness at the trial was the social
worker assigned to the case, Nicole Fougerousse
(“Fougerousse”). The child's guardian ad
litem (“GAL”), who had previously submitted her
report to the court, gave a narrative summation of the report
and was subject to cross-examination by the parties.
7} The testimony and record established the
following facts. At the time of trial, Z.D. was 23 months
old, and since birth, had been living continuously in Ohio
with maternal grandfather and his girlfriend. Mother had not
seen the child in person since the child was six weeks old,
when Mother left for Florida and had not since returned to
Ohio. Thus, Mother did not attend any of the proceedings
relative to this appeal, including, as mentioned, the trial.
Mother went to Florida to live with Z.D.'s alleged
Father, who had never seen Z.D. in person. Mother and alleged
Father had a domestically violent relationship.
8} The record demonstrates that Z.D. is Mother's
fifth child. The four other children were not in Mother's
care. Three of them were in the care of maternal grandfather
and his girlfriend (since April 2017); and the other child
was in the care of paternal relatives.
9} Social worker Fougerousse, who was involved in
the case nearly from its inception, testified that a case
plan was developed for Mother and the goal was reunification.
The objectives of the plan included Mother completing a
psychological evaluation, addressing mental health issues,
securing a stable source of income, obtaining appropriate
housing, and addressing domestic violence issues with alleged
10} The social worker testified that shortly after
the initial complaint was filed, Mother told her of her plan
to move to Florida. She talked to Mother about starting with
the objectives of the case plan in Ohio, but Mother stated
that she was already involved in domestic violence support
groups in Florida. The ...