Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Pickaway
N. Wagner, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant.
Krystin N. Martin, Assistant Pickaway County Prosecuting
Attorney, Circleville, Ohio, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY
P. SMITH, PRESIDING JUDGE.
M.P., the child's biological father, appeals the trial
court's judgment that granted Pickaway County Department
of Job and Family Services (hereinafter DJFS) permanent
custody of one-and-a-half-year-old E.C. The father raises the
following assignment of error:
The trial court committed reversible error by finding that
E.C. had been in the temporary custody of DJFS for twelve or
more months of a consecutive twenty-two-month period.
The child was born in June 2017, and exhibited withdrawal
symptoms. Testing revealed that the child had illegal
substances in his system. The child remained hospitalized
through July 7, 2017. Upon his release from the hospital, the
agency obtained temporary custody of the child and also filed
a complaint that alleged the child is abused and neglected.
Over the next several months the agency worked to identify
the child's biological father. In December 2017, DNA
testing revealed appellant to be the child's father. Once
the agency learned the name of the child's biological
father, it filed an amended abuse and dependency complaint.
Throughout this time, the child remained in the agency's
temporary custody. In March 2018, the trial court adjudicated
the child an abused and dependent child.
The agency developed a case plan for the mother and the
father to follow. Neither successfully completed the case
plan. Thus, on September 21, 2018, the agency filed a
permanent custody motion. The agency alleged that the child
has been in its temporary custody for twelve or more months
of a consecutive twenty-two-month period and that placing the
child in its permanent custody is in the child's best
On January 19, 2019, the trial court held a hearing to
consider the agency's permanent custody motion. At the
start, the court noted that the father had not appeared for
the hearing but that his counsel was present. The
father's counsel asked the court to continue the matter,
and the court denied the motion to continue.
The mother's counsel stated that the mother has
determined that awarding the agency permanent custody is in
the child's best interest.
DJFS caseworker Dave Groff testified that the agency became
involved with the family after the hospital where the child
was born reported that the child tested positive for illegal
substances and exhibited withdrawal symptoms. Groff explained
that the child remained hospitalized to treat his withdrawal
symptoms and that upon the child's release, the agency
obtained temporary custody of the child.
Groff indicated that the mother initially identified an
individual she believed to be the child's father, but
that subsequent DNA testing excluded him as the child's
father. Groff stated that later DNA testing proved appellant
to be the child's father.
Groff related that the agency developed a case plan for both
parents. He stated that the case plan required the father to
(1) maintain sobriety, (2) submit to random drug screens, (3)
complete a drug and alcohol assessment and follow any
treatment recommendations, (4) obtain and maintain safe and
stable housing, and (5) obtain and maintain steady
Groff testified that the father did not comply with the case
plan requirements to maintain sobriety and to submit to
random drug screens. He explained that on December 8, 2017,
the father refused a drug screen, and the father admitted
that he had been taking Percocet without a prescription. On
February 20, 2018, the father tested positive for opiates,
oxycodone and marijuana. Between April 10, 2018, and June 12,
2018, the father refused four drug screens.
Groff explained that he attempted to assist the father with
obtaining a drug and alcohol assessment by helping the father
complete a health insurance application. Groff reported that
in January 2018, the father informed him that he lacked
insurance. Groff helped the father obtain an application and
offered to help him complete the application. Groff stated
that the father indicated that the he would take it home,
complete it, and then return it. However, Groff testified
that the father did not return the application until
Groff related that in April 2018, the father completed a drug
and alcohol assessment at Prism Behavioral Health. Groff
further stated, however, that the father did not complete a
treatment program and was discharged from the program due to
Groff explained that he attempted to visit the father's
current residence, but he was denied access to the home.
Groff stated that he went to the residence "dozens of
times," but he was never allowed inside. The father
informed Groff that "it wasn't his home and the
people living there basically did not want" to allow
Groff additionally indicated that he attempted to help the
father obtain independent housing. Groff stated that in
February 2018, he gave the father a housing voucher, but the
father did not use it.
Groff testified that although the father appeared to interact
appropriately with the child during visits, the father did
not consistently visit ...