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In re E. A.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren

July 22, 2019

IN RE: E. A.

          APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUVENILE DIVISION Case No. 16-D000093

          David P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kirsten A. Brandt, for appellee

          Clouse Law Office, Lauren L. Clouse, for appellant

          OPINION

          RINGLAND, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, the biological father of E.A., appeals from a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, granting permanent custody of E.A. to appellee, Warren County Children Services ("WCCS"). For the reasons detailed below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} Mother tested positive for drugs throughout her pregnancy. On July 2, 2014, E.A. was born and tested positive for drugs. As a result, E.A. was placed in the temporary custody of WCCS while Mother worked towards reunification.

         {¶ 3} There have been seven case plans throughout the pendency of this matter. The initial case plan included Mother and a different presumed father. However, later genetic testing confirmed Father's paternity in 2016. Due to the late establishment of paternity, Father had insufficient time to establish a bond with E.A. and therefore WCCS filed a new complaint to provide him with additional time to work the case plan.

         {¶ 4} On October 6, 2016, the juvenile court proceeded with an adjudicatory hearing and E.A. was found to be a dependent child. On October 27, 2016, the juvenile court held a dispositional hearing and granted temporary custody of E.A. to WCCS.

         {¶ 5} As part of Mother's case plan, she was to submit to random drug screens, comply with medication-assisted treatment, complete a drug and alcohol assessment, complete a mental health assessment, refrain from criminal activity, and to obtain and maintain income to provide for E.A.'s needs.

         {¶ 6} Mother struggled with substance abuse until July 2017 when she successfully completed a drug treatment program and was succeeding with her case plan. This changed in September 2018 when Mother relapsed and tested positive for oxycodone. Following the positive drug screen, Mother stopped responding to the caseworker's phone calls and ceased interaction with WCCS. Since that time, Mother has not seen or communicated with E.A. and did not attend the permanent custody hearing. She has not participated in this appeal.

         {¶ 7} When Father's paternity was established, WCCS developed a case plan for him. As part of his case plan, Father was to complete a mental health assessment and follow all recommendations, prove that he had stable income, maintain a safe and stable house, refrain from the use of illegal substances, and refrain from criminal activity.

         {¶ 8} Father completed case plan assessments. The assessments listed no issues with mental health or substance abuse. Throughout the proceedings Father was employed, but his housing situation was unverified. At the beginning of the case, Father resided in a one-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend. However, following separation from his girlfriend, Father moved in with a friend in July 2016. The caseworker attempted to see that home on multiple occasions but was ultimately unsuccessful. Father admitted that he could not take custody of E.A. because his housing, at the time, was inappropriate. Father then moved in with another friend in October 2016.

         {¶ 9} Father initially exercised supervised visitation with E.A. Father's visitation was later increased to four hours a week unsupervised in June 2016. Though he was consistent with visitations in June and July of 2016, he exercised only half of his visits in October and November 2016. Father cancelled visits on 14 separate occasions. Furthermore, since the caseworker had not visited his house, she was unable to increase his visitation hours. In November 2016, Father stopped visiting E.A. regularly. Father last saw E.A. on January 27, 2017.

         {¶ 10} In August 2017, Father attended a court hearing and indicated his desire to re engage with the case plan. As a result, the caseworker requested that Father obtain updated mental health and substance abuse assessments. Father did not ...


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