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In re L.M

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

November 21, 2019

IN RE L.M., ET AL. Minor Children Appeal by M.M., Father

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division Case Nos. AD 18910941, AD 18910942, and AD 18910943

          Mark A Stanton, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and Britta M. Barthol, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, and Anthony R. Beery and Cheryl Rice, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.



         {¶ 1} Appellant M.M. ("father") appeals the judgment of the Juvenile Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas that terminated his parental rights and granted permanent custody of three children to the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS" or "the agency"). Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court in the case of each child.


         {¶ 2} On September 5, 2018, CCDCFS filed a complaint in each of the underlying cases alleging three young children to be abused and neglected, and seeking temporary custody of the children. The complaint raised a number of concerning allegations regarding the care and well-being of the children, including the children being observed wandering the neighborhood looking for food, living in an unsanitary home with a lack of food, being filthy, having head lice, having bruises and marks on their bodies, and not being enrolled in school. The complaint alleged that mother fails to provide appropriate supervision for the children, does not have an appropriate residence, has a substance abuse problem, fails to provide the basic needs for the children, and has anger management issues. The complaint alleged that father has failed to establish paternity for the children, has failed to consistently support, visit, or communicate with the children, and was involved in pending criminal proceedings. CCDCFS was granted predispositional custody of the children, and the children were placed in a foster home.

         {¶ 3} On November 30, 2018, the children were adjudicated to be abused and neglected, and on December 4, 2018, they were committed to the temporary custody of CCDCFS. Father failed to appear at these proceedings. The magistrate found that neither mother nor father had visited the children since they were committed to emergency custody, neither parent had complied with the case plan, and father had not established paternity. The magistrate's decisions were adopted by the trial court.

         {¶ 4} On February 27, 2019, CCDCFS filed a motion to modify temporary custody to permanent custody. The social worker of record filed an affidavit indicating that mother had not completed case plan services; that father had not established paternity; that father had a substance abuse problem, specifically heroin; and that although father completed a substance-abuse treatment program, he had relapsed.

         {¶ 5} On May 22, 2019, the guardian ad litem ("GAL") for the children filed a report and recommendation for a grant of permanent custody to CCDCFS. The GAL raised a number of concerns regarding the condition of the children upon their arrival in the foster home, including signs of abuse, being underweight, and having educational and developmental-delay issues. The GAL indicated that the children's needs were being met in the foster home, their interactions were healthy and appropriate, and the foster parents wished to adopt all the children. The GAL noted ongoing concerns regarding mother, including a number of mental health issues, substance abuse issues, the children's home schooling, and the children not getting immunizations. The GAL noted that father had allegedly not been in the children's lives since the youngest child was born, had alleged mental health issues, and had unresolved criminal cases involving drug-related charges and domestic violence. The GAL indicated that neither mother nor father had substantially complied with case plan services or shown that they had benefitted from any services that may have been completed.

         {¶ 6} A hearing was held on May 29, 2019. Neither parent appeared for the hearing. The trial court denied the request of father's trial counsel for a continuance.

         {¶ 7} The social worker of record testified the circumstances that caused the children to be removed from their home included concerns that the children were left at home unattended, the children were found left outside alone, mother's drug paraphernalia was accessible, and the home was unclean and unsafe. The social worker testified to mother's case plan services, which included parenting, housing, and substance abuse. Although mother engaged in substance abuse services, she failed to comply with a number of agency requests and she failed to provide urine screens to verify sobriety. Also, she did not allow the social worker to verify if the conditions of the home had improved.

         {¶ 8} Although the social worker did not have contact with father, she did have contact with his father, who had some contact with him. The social worker was informed that father was in a sober-living facility, but no additional information was provided. When the social worker called to verify if father was in the treatment facility he was in previously, she was informed he was not there.

         {¶ 9} The social worker testified that father is the "alleged father," that he had not made any efforts to establish paternity of the children, that he has a substance abuse issue with heroin, that he had not provided any information to verify that he is in treatment, and that he had outstanding warrants for his arrest. There also were concerns of domestic violence and physical abuse of the ...

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