from Marion County Common Pleas Court Family Division Trial
Court No. 2016 AB 0008
A. Workman for Appellant
Kahle for Appellee
Appellant Sarah Smith ("Sarah") brings this appeal
from the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Marion
County, Family Division terminating her parental rights and
granting permanent custody to Appellee Marion County Children
Services ("the Agency"). On appeal, Sarah claims
that the trial court erred 1) in finding that the Agency made
reasonable efforts to reunify the family; 2) in finding that
the child could not be returned to the home in a timely
manner; and 3) in finding that the termination of the
parental rights was in the best interest of the child. For
the reasons set forth below, the judgment is affirmed.
This case arises from a complaint filed on January 12, 2016,
alleging that Ar.S. and her siblings in the home were
dependent children as drug trafficking and drug use was
allegedly occurring in the home. Doc. 1. Ar.S. was listed as
being born in July of 2004, to Sarah and Shane Smith
("Shane"), so was only 11 years old at the time of
the complaint. Id. The complaint requested that
protective supervision be granted to the Agency and that
Ar.S. would remain in the home. Doc. 1 and 3. On February 10,
2016, the trial court appointed Mary Kay Crowder
("Crowder") as the guardian ad litem for Ar.S. Doc.
11. An adjudication hearing was held before a magistrate on
March 11, 2016, at which the magistrate found Ar.S. to be a
dependent child. Doc. 18. The trial court subsequently
reviewed the evidence and adopted the decision of the
magistrate. Doc. 19. The magistrate held a hearing of
disposition on April 8, 2016, and ordered that Ar.S., would
remain in the custody of her parents under the protective
supervision of the Agency. Doc. 20. The trial court adopted
this disposition on May 2, 2016. Doc. 21.
On September 9, 2016, the Agency filed a motion for an
emergency removal of Ar.S. and three of her
siblings from the home. Doc. 25. The basis for the
removal was the continued use of drugs by Sarah and Shane;
alleged instances of domestic violence between Sarah and
Shane; eviction from the family home; the children failing to
attend school; and failure to follow the safety plan.
Id. The trial court granted emergency custody to the
Agency. Doc. 26. An amended case plan was submitted by the
Agency on September 15, 2016. Doc. 28. Per the case plan,
Ar.S. was placed in a certified foster home on September 9,
2016. Id. As part of the case plan, Sarah and Shane
were required to complete assessments for addiction and
mental health issues within 30 days, and follow the
recommendations. Id. Sarah and Shane were also
required to engage in services for domestic violence issues
within 30 days. Id. Both were required to submit to
random drug screens. Id. Although Ar.S. was
originally placed with her two younger siblings, in June
2017, the two younger siblings were moved to other foster
homes. Doc. 42 and 43. This left Ar.S. as the only child in
the foster home. Doc. 45. Ar.S. also began counseling to help
her deal with the trauma in her life. Id.
On June 11, 2018, the Agency filed a motion for permanent
custody of Ar.S. and her siblings. Doc. 79. The motion
alleged that Sarah and Shane had 1) failed to follow through
with the drug treatment recommendations; 2) continued to use
drugs in the presence of the children; 3) failed to comply
with requested drug screens at times; 4) failed to maintain
appropriate legal income; 5) failed to maintain appropriate
housing; 6) failed to implement parenting skills taught to
them; 7) failed to refrain from criminal activity; and 8)
engaged in domestic violence. Id. Crowder filed her
report to the court on June 25, 2018. Crowder noted that
Ar.S. was "extremely bonded with her mother and
siblings." Id. at 4. She noted that the foster
parents indicated that they were willing to keep Ar.S. until
she is 18, but they would not adopt her as they would lose
the financial support from the state if they did so.
Id. Crowder stated that Ar.S. was "very angry
with her father and wants nothing to do with him due to his
drug use and domestic violence against Sarah, [Ar.S.] and her
siblings." Id. Based upon everything she had
reviewed, Crowder stated that she did not believe Sarah would
be able to care for the children in the near future.
Id. at 8-9. Crowder concluded that although she
hoped the siblings could maintain contact with each other, it
was her opinion that it would be in Ar.S.'s best interest
to grant the Agency's motion for permanent custody.
Id. at 9. Crowder filed a supplemental report on
November 27, 2018. Doc. 138. In that report, Crowder stated
that Ar.S. indicated that she was "extremely upset"
at the thought that she would be permanently separated from
her younger siblings. Id. at 5. Ar.S. also indicated
that her preference would be to live with her maternal
grandmother, but if she cannot live with her, she would like
to remain with her foster parents, whom she considers to be
her "friends". Id. Crowder did not change
her recommendation. Id. at 12.
Hearings on the motion for permanent custody were held on
September 18 and October 31, 2018. Doc. 104. On December 27,
2018, the trial court issued its judgment terminating the
parental rights of Sarah and Shane. Id. In its
judgment, the trial court made the following findings.
The evidence shows that the children have been placed
in various foster homes. Each child has experienced
significant trauma and show signs of post-traumatic stress
disorder. The children are at various levels of treatment for
their trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
[Ar.S.], age 14, is the eldest of the four children.
She has been and continues to be in counseling to address her
depression and anxiety. [Ar.S.], being the oldest of the four
children, demonstrates the need to protect the other
children. Since she has been in foster care her academics
Id. at 2. The court found that Ar.S. had been in the
temporary custody of the Agency for 12 out of the prior 22
months.  Id. at 3. The court also found
that the parents had failed to remedy the conditions which
required Ar.S. to be removed from the home and that the
Agency had made reasonable efforts to reunify the family.
Id. at 4. The trial court then granted the Agency
permanent custody of Ar.S. and her siblings. Id. at
4-5. Sarah filed a timely notice of appeal from this
judgment. Doc. 146. On appeal, she raises the
following three assignments of error.
First Assignment of Error
The trial court erred in finding that the Agency made
reasonable efforts to reunify the family as required under
Second Assignment of Error
The trial court erred when it determined that the
children could not be returned in a timely manner.
Third Assignment of Error
The decision of the trial court is not in the best
interest of the child and the determination was against the
manifest weight and sufficiency of the evidence.
interest of clarity, the assignments of error will be
discussed out of order.
All of the assignments of error allege that the trial court
erred in terminating the parental rights of Sarah. The right
to parent one's own child is a basic and essential civil
right. In re Murray, 52 Ohio St.3d 155, 556 N.E.2d
1169 (1990). "Parents have a 'fundamental liberty
interest' in the care, custody, and management of their
children." In re Leveck, 3d Dist. No. 5-02-52,
5-02-53, 5- 02-54, 2003-Ohio-1269, ¶ 6. These rights may
be terminated, however, under appropriate circumstances and
when all due process safeguards have been followed.
Id. When considering a motion to terminate ...