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In re J.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Guernsey

December 11, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF J.H.

          Civil appeal from the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 17 JC 00304

         JUDGMENT: Affirmed

          For Mother MARK PERLAKY

          For Appellee MELISSA WILSON

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          Gwin, P.J.

         {¶1} Appellant-Mother appeals from the August 1, 2019 judgment entry of the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, terminating her parental rights and granting permanent custody of J.H. to Guernsey County Children's Services ("GCCS").

         Facts & Procedural History

         {¶2} On August 1, 2017, GCCS filed a complaint and a motion for emergency temporary custody, alleging J.H., who was born on April 21, 2011, is a neglected child pursuant to R.C. 2151.03(b) and/or (c), and a dependent child pursuant to R.C. 2151.04(b) and/or (c). The complaint alleges as follows: GCCS was notified that a drug raid had been conducted at the home of Grandmother, J.H.'s legal custodian; Grandmother was arrested at the scene; officers found crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia in the home that was laying in plain sight and within the reach of the child; officers reported the home was in deplorable condition; Grandmother provided GCCS a name for potential kinship placement, but that person was out of town and unavailable to care for J.H.; the whereabouts of J.H.'s Father are unknown; J.H.'s Mother is incarcerated at the Northeast Pre-Release Center; Grandmother remains incarcerated at the Guernsey County Jail; and J.H. is in need of a safe, stable, and secure living environment. The trial court issued an ex parte order of custody of J.H. to GCCS.

         {¶3} The trial court held a probable cause hearing on August 1, 2017. In an August 8, 2017 judgment entry, the trial court found probable cause to believe J.H. is a dependent or neglected child.

         {¶4} Mother filed a motion to be added to the case plan on August 21, 2017. The trial court held an adjudicatory hearing on October 6, 2017. In a judgment entry, the trial court found J.H. to be a dependent child pursuant to R.C. 2151.04(C). Upon request of GCCS, the trial court dismissed the allegations of neglect. The trial court found reasonable efforts were made by GCCS to keep the child in his own home by looking for kinship placement for the child.

         {¶5} On October 31, 2017, the trial court held a dispositional hearing. In a November 2, 2018 judgment entry, the trial court added Mother to the case plan, continued the temporary custody of J.H. with GCCS, and found reasonable efforts were made by GCCS to keep the child in his own home.

         {¶6} The trial court held review hearings on January 29, 2018 and April 23, 2018 and issued judgment entries on January 31, 2018 and April 25, 2018 continuing the temporary custody of J.H. with GCCS and finding reasonable efforts were made by GCCS to keep the child in his own home by looking for a kinship placement for the child, providing a safety plan, providing support services, providing mental health services, providing mental health counseling for the child, providing case management, providing financial support for the custodian, and providing visitation with the custodian. In the January 31, 2018 judgment entry, the trial court also approved the amended case plan dated January 26, 2018.

         {¶7} The trial court held a review hearing on July 19, 2018 and issued a judgment entry on July 25, 2018. The trial court granted GCCS' motion for extension of temporary custody. Further, the trial court found GCCS made diligent and reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan by working a reunification plan for Mother and Grandmother and also that GCCS made reasonable efforts to keep the child in his own home by looking for a kinship placement for the child, referrals for services, providing case management, and providing visitation with Grandmother.

         {¶8} GCCS filed a motion for permanent custody on October 2, 2018. GCCS the filed a motion to dismiss the permanent custody motion, stating they were exploring recently discovered kinship options. On December 21, 2018, upon the motion of GCCS, the trial court dismissed the motion for permanent custody. GCCS filed a second motion for permanent custody on April 2, 2019. The trial court held a hearing on the motion on July 30, 2019.

         {¶9} At the beginning of the hearing, the trial court noted Father failed to appear. Counsel for Father did not know his whereabouts and last had contact with him in November and thus requested the trial court continue the hearing. The trial court denied the motion to continue.

         {¶10} Kendra Winland ("Winland") is a case manager and chemical dependency counselor at Cedar Ridge who began working with Grandmother in April of 2018 when Grandmother came for an assessment. Grandmother was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and cocaine abuse. Grandmother did not complete her treatment and was discharged unsuccessfully in October of 2018 because she did not show up for her appointments or respond to the letters sent by the agency. Grandmother took three drug screens while with the agency, in April, May, and June of 2018. She failed all three screens for testing positive for cocaine. Grandmother denied using cocaine and told Winland she must have come in contact with it while cleaning and it was in her home because of her son.

         {¶11} Nancy McIntire ("McIntire"), a counselor with Guernsey County Alcohol and Drug Services, met Grandmother when she came for an assessment on November 6, 2018. Grandmother was diagnosed with mild cocaine stimulant use disorder and the recommendation from the assessment was individual counseling weekly. Grandmother did not successfully complete counseling with the agency and her case is open, but in inactive status because of her failure to attend appointments. Grandmother kept eleven counseling appointments, with the last being on April 8, 2019. Grandmother took five drug screens when with the agency, two in November of 2018, two in January of 2019, and one in March of 2019. She tested positive for cocaine in all of the drug screens. Grandmother denied using cocaine. McIntire found this concerning because, even though the levels of cocaine in her tests were coming down, McIntire could not start to work with and treat a drug addiction if someone does not admit they have a problem.

         {¶12} Deanne McNerney ("McNerney"), a pretrial bond officer at the Cambridge Municipal Court, monitored Grandmother when she was placed on bond through the court. The bond conditions included no alcohol, no non-prescribed drugs, and random drug screens. Grandmother took two drug screens for McNerney, both in April of 2019, and tested positive for cocaine in both screens. Grandmother failed to appear for drug screens in May of 2019. McNerney testified Grandmother denied using cocaine despite the positive drug screens.

         {¶13} Kelsey Wolfe ("Wolfe") is the kindship program coordinator at GCCS who looked into several kinship placements for J.H. Two individuals, L.M. and R.S., never responded to letters or phone calls in June of 2019. In June of 2019, T.T. expressed interest in adopting J.H. as her family owned a daycare J.H. attended. Wolfe informed T.T. that J.H. was not available for adoption, but he was available for a kinship placement and the agency would look into it; however, Wolfe never heard from T.T. after that. Wolfe testified she very clearly indicated to T.T. that if she was interested in a kinship placement, she should let Wolfe know. At the request of Mother, in March of 2019, the agency looked into M.H. However, the agency did not have a working phone number or valid address for M.H. In January of 2019, the agency explored M.D., but they could not find a valid address or working phone number for her. They agency explored A.W. in November of 2018. A.W. lived in Pennsylvania and began the Interstate Compact process, but A.W. ultimately withdrew from consideration in March of 2019.

         {¶14} The agency explored M.R. in October of 2018. M.R. had an extensive criminal and child welfare history. Though she reported she had made changes in her life, M.R. had a positive drug screen and thus was removed from consideration in January of 2019. B.S. was considered in August of 2018, but she would not return phone calls or letters from the agency, so she was removed from consideration in October of 2018. K.M. was considered in September of 2018, but was denied due to her criminal history and child welfare history. Also in September of 2018, the agency mailed letters to J.H. and V.H. and did not receive a response to either of the letters. In June of 2018, M.P.'s name was provided, but she was denied due to her child welfare history. In March of 2018, J.J. asked to be considered, but ultimately felt she could not handle the child's behavior.

         {¶15} In April of 2018, the agency considered F.H. and J.H., but there were concerns about their health, so Wolfe asked them to complete medical evaluations. They did not complete any evaluations and were then not considered when Grandmother moved in with them in June of 2018 due to Grandmother's drug use. The agency considered D.T. in August of 2017, but she was denied due to her child welfare history. Wolfe testified that D.T. was substantiated as a perpetrator of neglect in 2007.

         {¶16} In March of 2019, the agency considered J.S., but he withdrew from the process in April of 2019 due to his wife being in jail for murder and too much family drama going on for him to take the child. J.S. also believed Mother and Father stole his daughter's car. Wolfe testified J.S. contacted the agency the week prior to the permanent custody hearing, but she did not contact him because he has a very extensive violent criminal history that would make it very difficult to place a child in his home. J.S.'s last felony conviction was in 2008. Additionally, J.S. was last involved with the child welfare system in 2015.

         {¶17} Wolfe testified that, as of the date of the hearing, there were no ...


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