Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
IN RE J.J. Minor Child Appeal by E.A., Mother
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Juvenile Court Division Case No. AD18905474
Zacharias, for appellant.
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, and Andrea J. Latessa and Cheryl Rice, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
MICHELLE J. SHEEHAN, JUDGE
1} Appellant mother E A. ("Mother")
appeals from the judgment of the juvenile court awarding
permanent custody of her minor son, J. J., to the Cuyahoga
County Department of Children and Family Services
("CCDCFS" or "agency"). Upon a thorough
review of the record, we find that the juvenile court
properly engaged in the two-prong analysis prescribed by R.C.
2151.414 and clear and convincing evidence supports the
court's decision granting permanent custody of the child
to the agency. We therefore affirm.
Procedural History and Substantive Facts
2} J.J. was born on April 25, 2018, and two days
later, CCDCFS filed a complaint for dependency and permanent
custody alleging Mother has mental health challenges,
specifically depressive disorder, that prevent her from
providing appropriate care for the child; she has five other
children who were removed from her care and custody; she has
a history of substance abuse issues that prevent her from
providing appropriate care for the child; and Mother has
continued to maintain a relationship with the child's
father, Jo J. ("Father"), despite being the victim
of domestic violence at his hands. The agency also filed a
motion for pre-dispositional temporary custody of the child,
which the trial court granted.
3} On September 6, 2018, the court held a hearing on
adjudication, during which Mother stipulated to an amended
complaint that included the following allegations: Mother has
depressive disorder and was dismissed from treatment in
November 2016 due to noncompliance; Mother has a history of
substance abuse dependency and has not complied with the case
plan requirement to submit to random drug tests; Mother has
maintained a relationship with the child's father despite
being the victim of domestic violence; and she has five other
children who had been adjudicated dependent and were removed
from her care.
4} During the adjudication hearing, the assigned
social worker, Tracy Simpkins ("Simpkins"),
testified that domestic violence has continued to be an issue
for Mother. According to Simpkins, Mother had completed
domestic violence class in the past but she has not
benefitted because she immediately returned to a relationship
with her abuser, J.J.'s father, as well as another
individual who also engaged in domestic violence. Simpkins
further testified that Mother was kicked out of a domestic
violence shelter because she violated the rules of the
shelter. Simpkins stated that Mother was therefore homeless,
staying with a "sponsor" outside of the county.
Finally, Simpkins noted that Mother had engaged in mental
health services, but because she moved to Ravenna and gave up
her CMHA housing, she must begin mental health services over
again in Ravenna.
5} Regarding Father, Simpkins testified that he had
been convicted of domestic violence against Mother and was
incarcerated for 16 months of the imposed three-year
sentence. Simpkins stated that "[w]hen [Father] got out
in August 2017, Mother moved in a place in September and they
[were] right back together."
6} On September 12, 2018, the court found that
allegations of the amended complaint were proven by clear and
convincing evidence and further found that the child lacked
adequate parental care because of the mental health of the
child's parents because "Mother is currently
homeless and the parents are not engaged in services designed
for reunification," the child's return to Mother
will be contrary to the child's best interest, and
suitable relatives cannot be located. The court also found
that the agency had made reasonable efforts to prevent the
continued removal of the child from the home.
7} The court ordered Mother to submit to a chemical
abuse assessment; to treatment, if recommended; and if
treatment is recommended, to alcohol and/or drug testing
before, during, and after chemical abuse treatment. The court
then adjudicated the child dependent.
8} On April 4, 2019, the court held a dispositional
hearing, during which the court heard testimony from the
social worker in this case.
9} The ongoing social worker, Simpkins, testified on
behalf of the agency. Mother's history with the agency
began in 2013, and Simpkins received the case "three
years ago." J.J. was removed from Mother's care and
custody directly from the hospital in April 2018, when J.J.
was two days old. At the time of the dispositional hearing,
J.J. was 11 months old.
10} The record shows that Mother has five other
children, all of whom have been removed from Mother's
care and custody and are in the permanent custody of the
agency. J.J.'s father, Jo.J., is also the father of one
of the other children in the agency's custody. The
agency's concerns with Mother beginning in 2013 were
substance abuse, mental health, housing, and domestic
violence. At that time, the agency also had concerns
regarding Father's paternity, housing, domestic violence,
and interrelationship with his child. To address those
concerns, the agency developed a case plan. Both parents
failed to comply with the case plan.
11} Simpkins stated that the agency's initial
concerns with Mother regarding mental health issues,
substance abuse, housing, and domestic violence, and the
agency's concerns with Father regarding domestic
violence, housing, and interrelationship with the child, have
continued to date. Regarding the current case, the agency
developed a case plan for both Mother and Father. According
to Simpkins, she reviewed the case plan with the parents and
neither parent expressed objections to the case plan. Mother
in fact signed the case plan. Father did not sign the case
plan "because he never made himself available; [rather
h]e would just call and cuss me out."
12} Simpkins testified that Mother completed a
domestic violence class. She failed to benefit from the
services, however, because she continued a relationship with
J.J.'s father, who had been convicted of domestic
violence against her.
13} Simpkins testified that Mother did not have
housing at the beginning of JJ.'s case, but she later
obtained housing through CMHA. Mother left her CMHA housing,
however, to return to Father. At the time of the hearing,
Mother had no stable housing and relied on friends and her
advocate for a place to stay. When Simpkins requested to
visit Mother at her friends' place, Mother informed her
that these friends also had an open case with the agency and
did not want Simpkins coming to their home.
14} Regarding her employment, the social worker
testified that Mother reported that she is working
"under the table." Simpkins, however, has not been
able to verify this employment.
15} Additionally, Mother failed to complete mental
health and substance abuse services. According to Simpkins,
Mother went to The Centers for mental health services
"one or two times." She also went to Catholic
Charities for substance abuse services only "one or two
times." Simpkins stated that Mother went to St.
Coleman's as well. This program provided dual-diagnostic
assessment. Mother completed the assessment, and St.
Coleman's recommended both mental health and substance
abuse services. Mother failed to engage in the recommended
services, however, meeting only with the case manager on
three occasions. And Mother repeatedly refused to submit to
drug tests. When she finally agreed in February 2019, Mother
tested positive for cocaine. According to Simpkins, Mother
admitted to having relapsed.
16} Simpkins testified concerning Mother's
visitation with J.J., stating that Mother visits regularly
and she "loves her baby." Simpkins also stated that
Mother is good with J.J. during the visits, explaining that
Mother plays with him, talks to him, and hugs and kisses him.
17} Regarding Father, Simpkins testified that Father
failed to make himself available for case plan services, and
he repeatedly failed to attend court hearings. When Father
interacted with Simpkins, he "would cuss [her]
out," argue with her, and threatened to kill her. At
this point, visitation with the baby and Mother was moved to
a different location because the agency was concerned for the
safety of the social worker and the transporter, who was
afraid to transport the baby for fear of Father showing up.
Simpkins further stated that Mother's visitations became
supervised because of Father's demonstrated aggression
toward the social worker, explaining that at the first
visitation without the social worker, the baby's
transporter was afraid to remove the baby from the vehicle
because she heard Mother talking to Father.
18} Simpkins added to Father's case plan that he
build a relationship with J.J. because he was "slow to
visit the baby." On most occasions when Simpkins called
Father for visitation, he would "cuss [her] out"
and threaten her. On one occasion, Father agreed to visit,
but he was a "no-show." Father has failed to visit
J.J. in the 11 months since J.J. was placed in the
19} Simpkins stated that Father once faxed her a
purported paycheck stub, but she was unable to confirm his
employment because the document lacked an identifiable
employer or contact number. The document contained only
"numbers, letters" and did not include a
letterhead. Father also sent a purported certificate from a
fatherhood class. Once again, however, Simpkins was unable to
confirm Father's attendance because the documents lacked
an entity name, phone number, and contact information. At the
time of the dispositional hearing, Father was living at a
20} Simpkins testified that the agency investigated
relatives for possible placement of J.J. but found no willing
and able family members. Mother's mother is older and
working with her husband as a truck driver, so she is not
able to care for the child. Mother's sister never
returned the social worker's phone call. And Father's
mother "wasn't going to be bothered."
21} Simpkins testified that J.J. is a healthy, happy
baby. He presently lives with his foster parents with whom he
was originally placed at birth. Simpkins has observed the
child in his current placement ...