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In re G.Eu.S.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Marion

December 30, 2019

IN RE: G.Eu.S., [SARAH SMITH - APPELLANT]

          Appeal from Marion County Common Pleas Court Family Division Trial Court No. 2016 AB 0010

          Todd A. Workman for Appellant.

          Justin Kahle for Appellee.

          OPINION

          WILLAMOWSKI, J.

         {¶1} 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.

         Procedural Background

         {¶2} 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.[1] 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.

         {¶3} On September 9, 2016, the Agency filed a motion for an emergency removal of G.Eu.S. and three of his siblings[2] 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. Id.

         {¶4} 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.

         {¶5} 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 disorder.
[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 [G.Eu.S.].

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.[3] 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.[4] 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 Ohio Law.
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.

         In the interest of clarity, the assignments of error will be discussed out of order.

         Legal ...


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