Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE A.C. A Minor Child [Appeal by A.C., Father]
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Division Case No. AD18900944
Law, L.L.C., and Leslie E. Wargo, for appellant
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, and Anthony R. Beery and Cheryl Rice, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
T. GALLAGHER, PRESIDING JUDGE
Appellant, AC. ("Father"), appeals an order of the
Juvenile Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas (the "juvenile court") granting legal custody
of his daughter ("AC") to her maternal great-uncle
("Uncle"). Father claims the following three
trial court erred by denying the Father's motion for
continuance because the Father had a medical issue, thus,
precluding him from testifying at the hearing.
2. The trial court erred by denying the Father's motion
for first extension of temporary custody.
3.The trial court erred by denying the Father's request
for a new social worker.
4. Because the trial court did not continue the hearing after
Father became ill and did not grant the Father's motion
for a first extension of temporary custody, it did not have
all the competent and credible evidence before it to render a
decision to grant permanent custody to the uncle.
We find no merit to the appeal and affirm the trial
Facts and Procedural History
In January 2018, the Cuyahoga County Department of Child and
Family Services ("CCDCFS" or "the
agency") filed a complaint alleging that A.C. was a
neglected and dependent child due to her parents' failure
to care for her special medical needs. A.C. was born
prematurely and remained hospitalized for four months after
birth due to a heart condition and problems with her immune
system. The complaint for temporary custody further alleged
that (1) A.C.'s mother ("Mother") and Father
were unwilling to follow medical advice; (2) Mother had
untreated mental health and substance abuse issues; and (3)
A.C.'s older brother, K.J., was already in the emergency
custody of CCDCFS due to Mother's failure to provide for
his medical needs. The agency also filed two motions for
emergency predispositional temporary custody. Following a
hearing in February 2018, the court granted emergency custody
of AC. to CCDCFS, and A.C. was placed in the care of Uncle.
Thereafter, in March 2018, Father filed a motion requesting
that legal custody be granted to himself with an order of
protective supervision. A magistrate denied the motion.
Father objected to the magistrate's decision, and the
trial court overruled the objections.
In July 2018, CCDCFS filed a motion to modify custody and
asked the court to grant legal custody of A.C. to Uncle.
Prior to a hearing on the motion, Father filed a motion for
extension of temporary custody and for removal of the
assigned social worker.
On October 25, 2018, the court held a hearing on the
parties' competing motions, beginning with Father's
request for the removal of the assigned case worker. Father
alleged that extended family members of the assigned case
worker, Rosalind Bailey ("Bailey"), were close
friends with members of Mother's family, including Uncle.
He claimed that "Bailey's cousin Ryan and [Uncle]
are very good friends." (Father's motion for first
extension of temporary custody and request for a new social
worker p. 2.) He further alleged that "Ms. Bailey knows
his wife's mother and grandmother and was consequently
aware of his wife being on the outs with her family over
money," and that he and Mother know Bailey's
grandmother and have been in her home. (Father's motion
for first extension of temporary custody and request for a
new social worker p. 2.)
Father alleged at the hearing that his stepchild played at
Bailey's grandmother's home and that Bailey's
grandmother lives down the street from Uncle. (Tr. 6.) Father
also alleged that Mother's mother has been friends with
Bailey's grandmother "for years" and that they
live in close proximity to each other. (Tr. 6.) Bailey denied
these allegations and denied that any of her relatives live
anywhere near Uncle. (Tr. 6.) Indeed, Bailey testified that
both of her grandmothers are deceased; one grandmother died
before Bailey was born and her other grandmother passed away
in 2014, long before A.C. was born. (Tr. 16.) Bailey also
stated that she does not know any of the individuals named in
Father's motion. (Tr. 16.) According to Bailey, Father
wanted her removed from the case because he did not like the
information she relayed to him from A.C.'s medical
providers. She explained:
So I guess with that information, he didn't want me to be
on the case because he didn't like the information that I
spoke to him that was given to me from the service providers.
Father's lawyer nevertheless argued that Father does not
trust Bailey and believes "she has spoken falsely about
facts in the case" and, therefore, Father did not feel
he could work with her. Counsel argued that Father loves A.C.
and "could have done much better if he had a different
social worker who [sic] he could trust." (Tr. 19.)
Father admitted that he did not work his case plan the way he
should have, but asserted his failure to do so was because he
did not get along with Bailey. (Tr. 19.) He asked the court
to extend temporary custody in order to allow him the
opportunity to work on his case plan with a different case
8} The magistrate denied Father's motion to
remove A.C.'s case worker. Based on the parties'
arguments and Bailey's testimony, the magistrate found no
genuine conflict between Bailey and Father. (Tr. 23.) The
court, therefore, proceeded to a hearing on CCDCFS's
motion to modify the temporary custody of A.C. and award
legal custody of A.C. to Uncle.
Bailey testified that A.C.'s older brother, K.J., was
already in the legal custody of Uncle. Therefore, if the
court were to grant legal custody of A.C. to Uncle, the
siblings would be together. (Tr. 25.) Mother's case plan
required her to complete parenting and domestic violence
classes, undergo mental health treatment, and demonstrate
that she can provide for A.C.'s basic needs. (Tr. 27.)
According to Bailey, Mother made no attempt to complete any
of these objectives. (Tr. 27.)
10} Father's case plan also required him to
complete parenting and domestic violence classes, have
regular visits with A.C, and complete a psychological
assessment through the court psychiatric clinic. Father was
given an appointment for the psychological assessment, but he
rescheduled it three times and failed to show up for the
third appointment. (Tr. 29-30.) The court clinic closed his
case pursuant to a policy that limits appointments to no more
than three rescheduled appointments, and Father never
completed the assessment. (Tr. 29.)
Bailey testified that the psychological assessment was
necessary because (1) the agency received reports that Father
used excessive discipline with K.J., who was 11 years old,
(2) Father refused necessary medical care for A.C, and (3)
Mother and Father failed to obtain proper medical care for
K.J., while K.J., who is AC's half-brother, was still in
Mother's custody. (Tr. 30.)
The domestic violence assessment was a necessary component of
Father's case plan because Father used excessive
discipline on K.J., and the court had issued a no-contact
order prohibiting Father from having contact with K.J. (Tr.
32.) There were also concerns that Father was negatively
influencing Mother's decisions regarding A.C.'s care.
Father was given a copy of his case plan as well as referrals
for domestic violence and parenting classes at several
agencies, including West Side Community House, Fatherhood
Initiative, Cleveland Heights Collaborative, and others.
Father was assigned to a case manager at West Side Community
House, who informed Bailey that Father did not want to
interact with him. (Tr. 33.) The agency had referred Father
for services at Family Solutions before Bailey was assigned
to the case, and Father also refused those services. (Tr.
Visitation with A.C. started in February 2018. Bailey
testified that Father came to one visit in March, one
doctor's appointment in April, and two visits in May
2018. Father had no visits with A.C. between May 2018 and
October 25, 2018, the day of the hearing on CCDCFS's
motion for legal custody to Uncle. West Side Community ...