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In re C.B.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Richland

July 8, 2019


          Civil appeal from the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 2016-DEP-82.

          For Richland County Children's Services EDITH GILLILAND Richland County Children Services.

          For Father - Appellant DARIN AVERY

          Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.


          Gwin, P.J.

         {¶1} Appellant C. B. Jr. appeals from the January 17, 2019 judgment entry of the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, overruling his objections to the magistrate's decision, terminating his parental rights, and granting permanent custody of C.B. to the Richland County Children Services Board ("RCCSB").

         Facts & Procedural History

         {¶2} C.B. Jr. is the father of C.B., born July 13, 2012. D.C. is the mother of C.B. C.B. has two biological siblings. On September 8, 2016, RCCSB filed a complaint of dependency with regard to C.B. The complaint alleged, in part, that Mother has three active warrants for her arrest for child endangerment, has left the state, and has no contact with her children. Further, that Father is charged with aggravated trafficking, possession, and paraphernalia, has not maintained contact with his children or RCCSB, and C.B. observed Father selling drugs. The trial court appointed Dawn Fesmier Pigg as guardian ad litem ("GAL") for C.B. on September 19, 2016.

         {¶3} On September 28, 2016, the magistrate held a dispositional hearing. Father stipulated to a finding of dependency. The trial court found C.B. to be dependent and placed him into the temporary custody of RCCSB with a protective supervision order. The trial court found RCCSB engaged in reasonable efforts to prevent the continued removal of the child from his home and found those efforts have been unsuccessful given Father's felony conviction, Father's ensuing incarceration, and Mother's whereabouts being unknown.

         {¶4} On December 2, 2016, the magistrate held a further dispositional hearing. The magistrate found, by clear and convincing evidence, that C.B. is dependent as to Mother and Father and temporary custody to RCCSB is in the best interest of C.B. due to Father's lack of participation with the case plan, his current incarceration, and Mother's abandonment of the children and unwillingness to return to Ohio. The magistrate found RCCSB made reasonable efforts to prevent placement. On January 26, 2017, the trial court adopted and approved the case plan. The magistrate held ninety-day review hearings in February of 2017 and June of 2017, and found it was in C.B.'s best interest to remain in the temporary custody of RCCSB.

         {¶5} On August 11, 2017, RCCSB filed a motion seeking permanent custody of C.B. The trial court dismissed the motion for permanent custody after RCCSB filed a motion to extend temporary custody. On January 4, 2018, the magistrate found it was in C.B.'s best interest to extend temporary custody for six months. Mother filed a motion for visitation on January 16, 2018. RCCSB filed a motion for permanent custody on February 20, 2018. On June 14, 2018, Father filed a motion for visitation.

         {¶6} The GAL filed a report on July 18, 2018. The GAL stated Father was released from prison and called her approximately 30 days after his release to schedule an office conference. During the office conference, Father informed the GAL he was staying at a local homeless shelter and mentioned relocating to Cleveland. While Father told the GAL he completed several programs while incarcerated, he did not sign the requested releases for the GAL to obtain verification of completion of these programs. The GAL had not heard back from Father as to his progress. The GAL stated C.B. is doing well in school and successfully completed preschool. The GAL stated that while there are a number of children in the foster home, the foster family is clearly bonded to the children and the children to them. The foster parents have encouraged a relationship with the maternal great-grandmother of the children. The GAL recommended permanent custody of C.B. be given to RCCSB, as the GAL has never met Mother and because Father is not in a position to care for the children. Further, that case plan compliance cannot be confirmed for either parent.

         {¶7} The magistrate conducted a trial on RCCSB's motion for permanent custody and Father's motion for visitation on July 18, 2018.

         {¶8} Charlotte Wancha ("Wancha") is the child's maternal great-grandmother. She has known the children ever since they were born and is familiar with the parents. Wancha testified the children did not get the proper care, as the house was dirty, the children were dirty, and there was not enough food for the children. Wancha tried to bring food and help them. The children were present in the home when Wancha smelled marijuana in the home. Wancha still maintains contact with the children and testified they are really well behaved and are a lot better than they were.

         {¶9} Father testified he completed a mental health risk assessment done by the psychological department within the Lorain Correctional Institution and also completed a drug and alcohol abuse assessment by Recovery Services while in prison. Father completed several programs in prison with regards to anger and stress management. Father stated he has made mistakes, but loves his children and would do anything for them. Father believes if he is given 90 to 180 days, he could be financially stable and get his children back.

         {¶10} Father testified he is living at a homeless shelter. After he leaves there, Father intends to move to Cleveland where he would sleep at a business for thirty to sixty days until he has enough money to get a house. Father and Mother are still married. Father is trying to get Mother into rehab now and still loves her. Father video chats with Mother several times per week and Mother currently uses heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Mother told Father she gets money for drugs from prostitution. Father does not believe Mother is an appropriate parent to the children. Mother made allegations of domestic violence against him. Father originally was charged with two counts of aggravated drug trafficking and one count of possession. Father pled guilty to possession, a third degree felony, and was sentenced to two years in prison. After Father's arrest, the children did not return to him. Father admitted that prior to his incarceration, he did not do any of the voluntary case plan items.

         {¶11} Father believes it is in the best interest of the children to be returned to his custody because he wants his children to know he is always going to be there for them. Father testified he made some mistakes, but he was going through depression and anxiety because his wife left him, he could not pay his bills, and since he could not afford to feed his children, he had to sell drugs.

         {¶12} Father stated he went to see the GAL thirty days after he was released from prison. Father testified he attempted to call to make appointments, but did not leave a message. On cross-examination, Father stated he did not currently have a house to go home to, does not have a job or income to provide for his children, and has not completed his case plan.

         {¶13} Alexandra Hokans ("Hokans") is an intake caseworker at RCCSB. Hokans first investigated the family in 2014 when there were concerns of drugs use, poor home conditions, lack of supervision of the children, and domestic violence between Mother and Father. In 2014, she did not have enough to proceed past a voluntary investigation, so the case was closed. In 2015, Hokans again investigated the family for concerns of drug use, lack of supervision, and poor home conditions. That case was also closed. In August of 2015, there was a neglect report filed with concerns of lack of supervision of the children when they were living with Father and Mother's whereabouts were unknown. The family did not want to cooperate with ongoing case services, so the case was closed. In October of 2015, there were concerns of physical abuse. Father was not willing to cooperate, so they interviewed the children at school. It appeared as if Father hit one of the children. Father denied hitting the child. At that point, the agency involved the police. Father was arrested on an old warrant and he then agreed to a safety plan where he voluntarily placed the children with a family friend. Hokans testified Father was very hard to get a hold of and when she met him in person, Father was very resistant to allowing her access to the home. Hokans talked with Father about drug and alcohol treatment services, as well as parenting education. Father told Hokans he was not interested in those and felt he did not need them. Hokans transferred the case in November of 2015.

         {¶14} Dennis Rickett ("Rickett") is a caseworker at RCCSB and was the caseworker for the children. In 2015, there was an accusation of physical abuse of one of the children by Father. The case plan for Father required a substance use assessment, emotional and mental health assessment, and to provide for the basic needs of the children. Rickett offered Father drug and alcohol assessment services and mental health assessment services, but Father refused. Rickett testified Father is not a fan of RCCSB and was very reluctant to do anything RCCSB wanted him to do. Rickett did an unannounced home visit in February of 2016. Rickett described Father as unwilling to work with RCCSB. Father would not sign releases for the children or himself. The children were placed in foster care on June 8, 2016. During the course of time that Rickett was assigned to this case, he has never known Father to be employed. Father told Rickett the reason he was selling drugs was to get the income to support his children. Rickett testified Father has not completed or been able to prove that he has completed all or any of the case plan objectives. Prior to Father's incarceration, Father attended two out of four scheduled visits with the children. Father sent a few letters and drawings to the children while he was in prison.

         {¶15} Rickett testified the children are very dependent on each other. C.B. considers himself part of the foster family. Rickett stated since the children were placed in the temporary custody of RCCSB, they have not returned to the custody of Father. Rickett talked to the children and they told him they like where they are at and they want to stay where they are at. At the time he transferred the case, Rickett had not been successful in locating or identifying any family member that would be willing to take legal custody of the children. Rickett believes permanent custody to RCCSB is in the best interest of the children because the children have adjusted well, consider the placement that ...

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