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In re M.M.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 19, 2019

IN RE M.M. A Minor Child Appeal by S.M., Mother

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division Case No. AD-16915042


          Rick L. Ferrara, for appellant

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Willie Mitchell, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.


          LARRY A. JONES, SR., JUDGE

         {¶ 1} Mother, S.M., appeals the trial court's award of permanent custody of M.M. to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS" or "Agency"). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         Procedural History and Facts

         {¶ 2} In 2016, CCDCFS filed a complaint for neglect and requested temporary custody of M.M. M.M. was adjudicated dependent and committed into the Agency's temporary custody. In October 2018, the Agency moved for permanent custody. The trial court held a hearing after which it granted the Agency's motion, finding that a grant of permanent custody to CCDCFS was in M.M.'s best interest.

         {¶ 3} Nine-year-old M.M. was initially placed into Agency custody after Mother showed up at M.M.'s school intoxicated and was arrested. The Agency developed a case plan, which included substance abuse services, including weekly drug and alcohol screens, mental health counseling, and a requirement to maintain housing. The goal of the case plan was reunification.[1]

         {¶ 4} Mother completed inpatient substance abuse treatment in November 2016 and began intensive outpatient treatment. Mother was to complete intensive outpatient treatment in February 2017 but tested positive for marijuana. In March 2017, Mother filed a motion for increased visitation. The agency opposed the motion because Mother tested positive for marijuana the previous month and told her caseworker she would again test positive for marijuana in March. In April 2017, Mother was charged with driving under the influence.

         {¶5} Mother completed another inpatient substance abuse treatment program in August 2017. She made progress on her case plan and CCDCFS filed a motion to terminate temporary custody with protective supervision. Mother's boyfriend contacted the Agency, concerned about reunification because Mother was drinking and had alcohol in the house. The Agency requested Mother take a drug and alcohol test; Mother tested positive for alcohol. Mother told her caseworker, Linda Yeldell ("Yeldell"), that she tested positive because she drank a bottle of Nyquil because she needed help sleeping after a recent dog bite. Yeldell was unable to verify Mother had been bitten by a dog.

         {¶ 6} CCDCFS moved to withdraw its motion to terminate temporary custody. The Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL") filed a report recommending that the Agency continue temporary custody due to Mother's inability to maintain her sobriety.

         {¶ 7} At a review hearing in June 2018, the court noted that Mother had recently submitted several negative urine screens but had failed to submit urine screens for the last two weeks. In August 2018, Mother had M.M. for overnight visitation but left the child alone so Mother could go out drinking. An incident occurred and Mother was subsequently arrested and charged with domestic violence and endangering children, with M.M. as the named victim. The court overseeing Mother's criminal case ordered her to have no contact with M.M., and Mother has not seen M.M. since September 2018.

         {¶ 8} Although Mother began outpatient substance abuse treatment on more than one occasion, she had not successfully completed that program as of the date of the permanent custody hearing. Yeldell testified that Mother refused to sign a release so that Yeldell could speak with Mother's probation officer about the results of Mother's drug and alcohol tests. Yeldell was concerned that Mother often waited two to three days to complete her drug and alcohol tests, even though the Agency requires clients to complete a test within 24 hours of being asked to take the test. Yeldell explained that the Agency looks at a delay in compliance as a "possible positive." The Agency had also received information and was therefore concerned that Mother was "manipulating the tests," which were not monitored, and put in a request to have her drug and alcohol tests monitored.

         {¶ 9} Mother participated in mental health services to address her depression, anxiety, and borderline personality diagnoses. Yeldell testified that Mother was not always compliant with the mental health portion of her case plan. For example, Mother used her substance abuse provider to provide mental health counseling services for her, which was not allowed under Agency guidelines. In addition, one of Mother's mental health therapists discontinued therapy due to "an incident [with Mother] that occurred during their therapy session." As of the date of the permanent custody hearing, Mother had reengaged with an appropriate mental health counselor and was compliant with medication.

         {¶ 10} Throughout the pendency of the case, Mother was ...

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