In the Matter of: J.W., Jr., A Minor, [J.W., Jr., Appellant]. In the Matter of: J.W., Jr., A Minor, [J.W., Sr., Appellant].
APPEALS from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas No.
15JU-13663, Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch
William T. Cramer, for appellant J.W., Jr.
Venters, Public Defender, and Robert D. Essex, for appellant
J. McClaren, for appellee Franklin County Children Services.
1} In these consolidated appeals, appellant J.W.,
Jr. and appellant J.W., Sr. ("Father") appeal the
February 14, 2019 decision and judgment entry from the
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic
Relations, Juvenile Branch, terminating the parental rights
of Mother and appellant J.W., Sr. and granting
permanent custody of J.W., Jr. to Franklin County Children
Facts and Procedural History
2} J.W., Jr. was born on February 20, 2008. J.W.,
Jr. has been in the continuous custody of FCCS since August
27, 2015 when a temporary order of custody was obtained. FCCS
initially became involved when Mother arrived with the
children at the Young Men's Christian
Association ("YMCA") shelter and advised they had
been living in the woods. At that time, Mother agreed to
place the children in respite care but failed to provide the
medication J.W., Jr. required for his mental and physical
3} On November 6, 2015, FCCS filed a complaint
alleging that J.W., Jr. was a neglected child, pursuant to
R.C. 2151.03(A)(2), and a dependent child, pursuant to R.C.
2151.04(D). The complaint alleged that the whereabouts of
both Mother and Father were unknown, and that Father had a
4} On January 26, 2016, J.W., Jr. was adjudicated
dependent and in an entry filed February 1, 2016, the trial
court issued a temporary court commitment ("TCC")
to FCCS. In the same entry, the trial court also adopted a
case plan. The case plan required Mother to maintain contact
with FCCS and the children, have a legal source of income and
ensure the child's basic needs were met, complete an
alcohol and other drugs ("AOD") assessment, follow
any recommendations from the AOD assessment, submit to drug
screens, have stable housing, and sign all information
releases requested by the agency. The case plan required
Father to maintain contact with the children and FCCS,
complete an AOD assessment, have proof of a legal source of
income, and stable housing.
5} On August 25, 2016, the court held an annual
review hearing. At the hearing, the court extended the TCC
for six months. In addition, the case plan was updated to
require both Mother and Father to complete AOD assessments
and follow through with any treatment recommendations, and to
complete walk-in drug screens free of substance abuse.
Further, Father was specifically required to refrain from
engaging in illegal activity.
6} On December 30, 2016, FCCS filed its motion
seeking permanent custody of J.W., Jr.
7} On June 13, 2017, counsel for Father filed a
motion to appoint counsel for J.W., Jr. or, in the
alternative, for the court to conduct an in-camera interview.
On October 24, 2017, the court conducted an in-camera
interview of J.W., Jr., during which he indicated he wanted
to go home to his Mother, but did not know why. He also
stated he would like to see his sister, his Mother, and his
Father. After the in-camera interview, the court appointed a
new guardian ad litem ("GAL") and the former GAL
was appointed counsel for J.W., Jr.
8} Subsequently, during a January 23, 2018 hearing,
the GAL requested a continuance of the trial on the motion
for permanent custody to give both Mother and Father an
opportunity to commence inpatient drug rehabilitation
programs to treat heroin addiction. The GAL noted that both
children had a "strong, strong bond with the parents,
especially the little boy." Mother and Father joined the
motion, FCCS opposed it, and the court granted the motion.
The record does not indicate whether inpatient drug
rehabilitation was ever completed by either Mother or Father.
9} On February 12, 2019, the matter finally
proceeded to trial. Father appeared via teleconference
because he was incarcerated. Despite the fact that Mother had
joined in the January 23, 2018 motion for a continuance of
the trial on the motion for permanent custody, she failed to
appear, and her attorney had already been granted leave to
withdraw from the case based on lack of contact with or
instructions from Mother. Further, Mother had missed all
court dates since February 2018.
10} At the trial, FCCS presented the testimony of
Rochelle Gallagher, the FCCS caseworker. Jonathan Klein, the
GAL, also provided testimony. No other testimony or evidence
11} Ms. Gallagher gave testimony on the background
of the case and explained the initial case plan that was
developed as discussed above. She first testified as to the
status of the case plan as it pertained to Mother and her
essential lack of compliance with the case plan. She further
testified that the last visit Mother had with ...