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In re D.P.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Coshocton

January 6, 2020

IN THE MATTER OF: D.P. DEPENDENT CHILD

          Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, Case No. 21730035

         JUDGMENT: Affirmed

          For Appellee CCJFS CHRISTIE M.L. THORNSLEY E. MARIE SEIBER ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR

          For Appellant-Mother E. MARIE SEIBER

          JUDGES: Hon. William B. Hoffman, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

          OPINION

          WISE, J.

         {¶1} Appellant Stephanie S. appeals the decision of the Coshocton County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, which granted permanent custody of her minor son, D.P., to Appellee Coshocton County Job and Family Services. The relevant facts leading to this appeal are as follows.

         {¶2} On June 29, 2017, Appellee CCJFS filed a complaint in the trial court alleging that D.P., born in 2015, was a dependent and neglected child. CCJFS alleged inter alia that there were concerns of parental drug abuse, unstable and unsafe home conditions, mental health issues, and domestic violence in the home. Following a shelter care hearing, D.P was placed in the temporary custody of CCJFS.

         {¶3} On September 20, 2017, appellant stipulated to a dependency finding. A case plan was presented to the trial court, and, as to disposition, D.P. was ordered to be maintained in the temporary custody of CCJFS.

         {¶4} On September 6, 2018, CCJFS filed a motion for permanent custody.

         {¶5} An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for December 14, 2018. However, on November 1, 2018, about six weeks before the hearing, one of D.P.'s maternal aunts, Jolene B., contacted the agency caseworker and requested a home study for placement and potential legal custody of the child. Tr. 183, 239.[1]

         {¶6} According to the record before us, CCJFS generally contracts for home studies with an outside specialist, Marcia Schmitt. However, upon receipt of Jolene B.'s November 1, 2018 request, the assigned CCJFS caseworker, Erin Heard, decided not to make a referral to Schmitt; instead, she essentially reviewed the aunt's extensive prior Ohio children services involvement in Ohio via the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System ("SACWIS"). Tr. at 238. Based on this review, the agency did not pursue Jolene B. as a potential person for placement or eventual legal custody. Caseworker Heard also found out later that appellant and Jolene B. were living in the same home. Heard later testified that had she known of this arrangement, Jolene's request would have been automatically denied. Tr. at 239.

         {¶7} The permanent custody motion was heard by the trial court on December 14, 2018 and January 12, 2019. The trial court issued a 21-page decision granting permanent custody to the agency on March 21, 2019, approximately five months after the aforesaid request by the aunt, Jolene B., for a home study.

         {¶8} On April 22, 2019, appellant-mother filed a notice of appeal. She herein raises ...


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