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In re M.J.C.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

June 14, 2019

IN RE: M.J.C.

          Appeal from Common Pleas Court - Juvenile Division Trial Court Case No. 2016-6797

          MATHIAS H. HECK, JR., by SARAH E. HUTNIK, Atty. Reg. No. 0095900, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office, Appellate Division, Attorney for Appellee, M.C.C.S.

          ROBERT ALAN BRENNER, Atty. Reg. No. 0067714, Attorney for Appellant, Father

          OPINION

          DONOVAN, J.

         {¶ 1} Petitioner-appellant Father appeals from a judgment of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, which terminated his parental rights and granted permanent custody of Father's child, M. J.C., to Montgomery County Children Services (hereinafter referred to as "MCCS"). Father filed a timely notice of appeal with this Court on February 14, 2019.[1]

         {¶ 2} Initially, we note that Father and Mother have had three other children removed from their custody by MCCS. The record establishes that in April 2011, the juvenile court terminated Mother's parental rights to C.M.1. REB Tr. 8.[2] In June 2012, the juvenile court terminated Mother's parental rights to C.M.2. REB Tr. 7. In June 2015, the juvenile court terminated Mother and Father's parental rights to C.C. REB Tr. 8. MCCS caseworker Cathy Stokes testified that her concerns with Father when C.C. was removed were a lack of stable and appropriate housing, inappropriate parenting practices, and a pattern of domestic violence. REB Tr. 9. Stokes testified that her concerns for Mother when the other children were removed were her failure to properly address the domestic violence perpetrated by Father, a lack of stable and appropriate housing, inappropriate parenting practices, and income issues. REB Tr. 9-10.

         {¶ 3} On October 31, 2016, Mother gave birth to M.J.C. When MCCS became aware of the child's birth, it opened a case file on M.J.C. based upon Mother and Father's history with the agency. On November 3, 2016, MCCS filed a complaint alleging that M.J.C. was a dependent child and requesting temporary custody. On November 4, 2016, the trial court granted MCCS interim protective supervision of M.J.C. In a decision issued on December 13, 2016, the juvenile court adjudicated M.J.C. to be a dependent child and granted protective supervision to MCCS. Father was placed on the case plan with the following objectives: obtain a mental health assessment and follow the recommendations; obtain a drug and alcohol assessment; obtain and maintain stable housing; obtain and maintain sufficient income; complete parenting and domestic violence classes; complete anger management classes and follow any recommendations; submit to random drug screening; and sign releases of information.

         {¶ 4} In early January 2017, Mother reported to the police and MCCS that Father had struck her in the face, giving her a black eye. As a result of the domestic violence, Father was arrested and incarcerated, and on January 13, 2017, M.J.C. was placed in the interim temporary custody of MCCS. Ultimately, Father was convicted of domestic violence and sentenced to two years in prison. On January 24, 2017, MCCS filed a motion to bypass reasonable efforts at reunification. On May 24, 2017, a hearing was held before the magistrate with respect to MCCS's motion for a reasonable efforts bypass. On the same day, the magistrate issued a decision granting said motion. Father was incarcerated at the time of the hearing, but he was represented by counsel who was present.

         {¶ 5} Father filed objections and supplemental objections to the magistrate's decision on May 26, 2017, and June 6, 2017, respectively. The juvenile court overruled Father's objections and adopted the magistrate's decision granting MCCS's motion for a reasonable efforts bypass in a judgment issued on September 22, 2017. Father appealed the juvenile court's judgment, but we dismissed Father's appeal for lack of a final appealable order. (Decision and Entry, CA 27752, December 1, 2017.)

         {¶ 6} On November 30, 2017, MCCS filed a motion for permanent custody of M.J.C. A hearing was held before the magistrate regarding MCCS's motion for permanent custody on March 8, 2018. At the time of the hearing, Father was still incarcerated, but he was present at the hearing with his counsel. At the hearing, evidence was adduced that, due to Father's ongoing incarceration, he was unable to complete any of his case plan objectives. MCCS caseworker Jeffrey Johnson testified that he met with Father in prison in order to discuss his case plan objectives and review any programs the prison offered. Johnson testified that Father indicated that he had not participated in any programs at the prison, but he had made some inquiries. Johnson testified that at no point after their meeting did Father contact MCCS regarding any progress he had made on his case plan. At the time of the permanent custody hearing, MCCS was unable to verify whether Father had completed any of his case plan objectives. Johnson also testified that MCCS was unable to locate any relatives of Mother or Father with whom M.J.C. could be placed.

         {¶ 7} M.J.C.'s foster mother, Jeana, also testified at the permanent custody hearing. Jeana testified that M.J.C. had been under her and her husband's care and supervision since January 10, 2017.[3] Jeana also testified that, in addition to caring for M.J.C, she had already adopted two of his biological brothers who had previously been removed from Mother's custody. Jeana testified that M.J.C. had bonded with his brothers and the whole family, in general. Jeana testified that M.J.C. was meeting his developmental milestones and was eating and sleeping well. Jeana testified that M.J.C. was an overall happy child and that she and her husband were considering adopting him.

         {¶ 8} In a decision issued on April 20, 2018, the magistrate granted MCCS's motion for permanent custody of M.J.C. Father filed timely objections and supplemental objections to the magistrate's decision. On February 5, 2019, the juvenile court overruled Father's objections and awarded permanent custody of M.J.C. to MCCS.

         {¶ 9} It is from this judgment that Father now appeals.

         {¶ 10} For clarity's sake, we will address Father's second assignment of ...


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