from Marion County Common Pleas Court Family Division Trial
Court No. 2016 AB 0010
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 G.Eu.S. and his siblings in the home were
dependent children as drug trafficking and drug use was
allegedly occurring in the home. Doc. 1. G.Eu.S. was listed
as being born in December of 2013, to Sarah and Shane Smith
("Shane"), so was only two years old at the time of
the complaint. Id. The complaint requested that
protective supervision be granted to the Agency and that
G.Eu.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 G.Eu.S.
Doc. 11. An adjudication hearing was held before a magistrate
on March 11, 2016, at which the magistrate found G.Eu.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 G.Eu.S., would
remain in the custody of his 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 G.Eu.S. and three of his
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,
G.Eu.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. G.Eu.S. was originally
placed in a foster home with his younger sister. Doc.86. On
October 27, 2016, G.Eu.S. and his younger sister were moved
to a second foster home so that they could be placed with
their older sister. Doc. 32. G.Eu.S. remained in the foster
home with his sisters until June 9, 2017, when he was moved
to a different foster home in a different county. Doc. 42.
G.Eu.S. remained in that home until April 3, 2018. Doc. 86.
This placement was disrupted due to violence towards the
family members and others. Id. G.Eu.S. was then
moved to a fourth foster home with a family near Toledo.
On June 11, 2018, the Agency filed a motion for permanent
custody of G.Eu.S. and his 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. Doc. 86. Crowder noted
that G.Eu.S.'s behaviors had improved and that he had
started to bond with his foster parents. Id. at 6.
She noted that the foster parents would consider adopting
G.Eu.S. if the court granted permanent custody to the Agency.
Id. Crowder also noted that per the reports from the
foster parents, G.Eu.S. does not mention his siblings other
than to complain about them and only mentions Sarah about
once a month. 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 G.Eu.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 G.Eu.S.'s violent and defiant
behaviors were continuing and that the foster parents
indicated that they were worse after visits. Id. at
8. As a result, G.Eu.S.'s visits had been reduced to
every other week as his counselor had indicated that the
visits were interfering with his progress. Id. She
noted the following.
Caring for [G.Eu.S.] is a very difficult job. In
addition to past exposure to drugs and violence, there are
increasing concerns that he has been the victim of sexual
abuse by an unidentified abuser. His ultimate recovery from
the trauma and neglect he has endured will require years of
counseling and intentional, patient parenting. At last report
the Hamiltons remain willing to adopt [G.Eu.S.].
Id. at 9. Crowder did not change her recommendation
about granting the Agency permanent custody of G.Eu.S.
Id. at 12.
Hearings on the motion for permanent custody were held on
September 18 and October 31, 2018. Doc. 140. 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
[G.Eu.S.] is 4 years old and will be 5 years old in
December. He also has behavioral and emotional concerns and
tends to be aggressive towards his peers when frustrated.
These behaviors are exacerbated when he visits family at the
agency. Recently the visits have been reduced from one week
to every two weeks because of the disruptions caused by
Id. at 2-3. The court found that G.Eu.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 G.Eu.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 G.Eu.S. and his siblings. Id. at
4-5. Sarah filed a timely notice of appeal from this
judgment. Doc. 145. 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.