Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE S.V.K., ET AL. Minor Children Appeal by S.R., Mother
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case Nos. AD15918095 and AD16900271
M. Kowalski, for appellant.
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, and Rachel V. Eisenberg, Assistant Prosecuting
Attorney, for appellee, CCDCFS.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
T. GALLGHER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
1} Appellant-Mother, S.R., appeals from the decision
of the Juvenile Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of
Common Pleas (the "juvenile court") terminating her
parental rights and granting permanent custody of her
children, S.V.K. and S.K., to the appellee Cuyahoga County
Division of Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS"
or "the agency"). Mother raises the following
assignments of error for review:
1. The trial court erred to the prejudice of the appellant
and against the best interests of the children when it denied
a continuance for the appellant-mother, depriving her of her
right to due process and abusing its discretion, as the
Mother's attorney informed the court her absence was due
to medical reasons.
2. The trial court erred in finding that permanent custody
was in the best interests of the children.
2} After careful review of the record and relevant
case law, we affirm the juvenile court's judgment.
Procedural and Factual History
3} S.R. is the mother of the minor children S.V.K.
and S.K. On December 30, 2015, CCDCFS filed a
complaint alleging that S.V.K., born August 15,
2014, was an abused child based upon an incident of domestic
violence between Mother and Father that was committed in the
presence of S.V.K. on December 16, 2015. In the motion, the
agency noted that the child was previously committed to the
temporary custody of the agency due to a domestic violence
incident in January 2015 that involved Mother stabbing the
child's father in the shoulder. The child was
subsequently returned to Mother with protective supervision
on December 3, 2015, just two weeks before the child was
returned to the emergency custody of CCDCFS on December 17,
2015. The agency further asserted that Mother "has a
history of abusing alcohol," "has criminal
convictions related to her substance abuse problem," and
"has five other children that were adjudicated and
removed from her care."
4} Just weeks after the December 2015 incident of
domestic violence, Mother gave birth to S.K. on January 1,
2016. On January 8, 2016, the agency filed a complaint
seeking the temporary custody of S.K. The complaint alleged
S.K. to be a dependent child and reiterated the agency's
concerns with Mother's history of domestic violence and
5} In March 2016, S.V.K was adjudicated abused and
was committed to the temporary custody of CCDCFS. In April
2016, S.K was adjudicated dependent and was committed to the
temporary custody of CCDCFS. CCDCFS then filed a case plan
for Mother, requiring Mother to complete a substance-abuse
assessment and follow recommendations, cooperate with random
drug screening, complete parenting classes, complete domestic
violence classes, and obtain safe and appropriate housing.
The permanency plan for each child was reunification with
6} On December 6, 2016, the agency sought an
extension of temporary custody for the children, which the
trial court granted. On June 8, 2017, the agency sought a
second extension of temporary custody for the children, which
the trial court also granted.
7} However, on September 28, 2017, the agency filed
a consolidated motion to modify temporary custody of the
children to permanent custody. In the motion, CCDCFS worker
of record, Shamatee White ("White"), averred that
Mother failed to comply with certain aspects of her
respective case plans that were filed and approved by the
court. Specifically, White opined that Mother (1) has failed
to maintain sobriety, (2) does not consistently comply with
requests for drug screens, (3) has continued to engage in
domestic violence, and (4) continues to exhibit poor
decision-making skills that put the children at risk of harm.
8} Following several continuances, the permanent
custody hearing was held on November 19, 2018. Present in
court was counsel for Mother, counsel for Father, CCDCFS
child protection specialist White, and the children's
guardian ad litem, Vickie Jones. Both Mother and Father
failed to appear.
9} At the onset of the hearing, counsel for Mother
requested a continuance "to give [Mother] the
opportunity to appear." Counsel noted that Mother
"had health issues" and that the court had
previously granted Mother a continuance in September 2018
"for that specific reason." Counsel expressed that
while she had spoken with Mother "on two occasions"
since the last continuance was granted, Mother did not appear
for a scheduled appointment and did not respond to
counsel's attempt to communicate via an email
correspondence. Following a discussion on the record, the
trial court denied counsel's request for a continuance,
stating "I think I've given mom ample opportunity to
10} CCDCFS child protection specialist, Shamatee
White, testified on behalf of the agency. White testified
that she first became involved in this case in December 2016.
In an effort to become familiar with the agency's case,
White reviewed Mother's case history, her case plan, and
the case-plan services provided by the agency. White
testified that she learned Mother has a total of seven
children and has been involved with CCDCFS since 2013.
Regarding the children that are not the subject of this case,
White stated that Mother's other children are not
currently under her care and are "in the legal custody
of a relative." Mother has a "history of substance
abuse," "ongoing mental health services," and
"a history of domestic violence with her paramour."
White stated that Mother has been diagnosed with depression,
anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, and other psychotic
disorders. She was also diagnosed with a poly-substance and
other substance-related disorders.
11} White reiterated that Mother's case plan
included objectives for domestic violence, substance abuse,
basic needs, and mental health. White testified that Mother
has completed domestic-violence services but has
"continuously had domestic incidents with one of her
paramours." In addition to the separate incidents of
domestic violence involving Father, White stated that the
agency also became aware of alleged incidents of violence
committed against Mother's other children. On one
occasion, Mother was alleged to have physically abused one of
her children with a "wooden board." The child was
required to go to the hospital for her injuries. Thus, White
opined that Mother has not benefited from the
12} With respect to her case-plan objective for
parenting, White testified that Mother completed supportive
parenting classes in 2017 and was receiving support services
during visits in her home. However, despite her participation
in the parenting classes, the agency received a substantiated
referral for physical abuse in August 2017. White testified
that the referral stemmed from an incident where Mother
became intoxicated during a visit and fell on top of S.V.K.
Mother's fall broke a table and caused another child, who
was in the custody of a family member, to sustain a
13} Regarding the case-plan component for substance
abuse, White testified that since the August 2017 incident,
Mother has "refused to take drug screens for the
agency." In addition, the agency obtained certified
journal entries from FrontLine Services indicating that
Mother tested positive for PCP, cocaine, and amphetamines in
April 2018. White testified that she did not have a
"sobriety date" for Mother due to her failure to
submit to drug screens and her refusal to sign a release of
information form with Recovery Resources. Thus, White
testified that there is "a concern that [Mother]
hasn't benefitted from her substance abuse
14} White conducted a home visit with Mother in
April 2018. During the visit, however, Mother refused to
allow White into the kitchen to see if there was sufficient
food in the home. White testified that she learned that
Mother no longer resides at her old address, and as of the
date of the permanent custody hearing, White had no
information regarding where Mother was living.
15} Regarding Mother's interaction with the
children, White testified that Mother would often cancel
visits after the agency filed the motion for permanent
custody. White estimated that Mother did not visit the
children for approximately four months in the beginning of
2018. However, in the "three or four months" before
the permanent custody hearing, Mother did not miss a visit.
White stated that Mother is appropriate with the children
during her supervised visits.
16} Under the totality of the foregoing
circumstances, White opined that permanent custody in favor
of the agency was in the children's best interests. White
explained that S.V.K. and S.K. were ...