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Stockstill v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

August 27, 2014

GERALD STOCKSTILL, APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILD, APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE LONOKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. JV-12-111. HONORABLE BARBARA ELMORE, JUDGE.

Suzanne Ritter Lumpkin, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

Tabitha Baertels McNulty, DHS--Office of Policy and Legal Services; and Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith Chrestman, for appellees.

ROBIN F. WYNNE, Judge. HIXSON and BROWN, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 96

ROBIN F. WYNNE, Judge

Gerald Stockstill appeals from the Lonoke County Circuit Court order that terminated his parental rights to his son D.S.2, who was then nine years old. He argues on appeal that the circuit court erred in finding that his son was adoptable, that his son would be subject to potential harm if placed in his custody, and that the " subsequent factors" ground for termination had been proved by clear and convincing evidence. We find no clear error and affirm.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) removed D.S.2 and his two younger siblings from their mother's custody in May 2012. In the probable-cause order, appellant was ordered to submit to paternity testing as to D.S.1 and D.S.2.[1] In the adjudication order, the court found (and the mother stipulated) that the children were dependent-neglected due to inadequate supervision and environmental neglect. The goal of the case was set as reunification.

At a review hearing on September 25, 2012, the results of paternity testing were introduced into evidence and appellant was found to be the father of D.S.2. The court ordered that appellant would not have any visitation with D.S.2 until he completed parenting classes, and " then the court will entertain an agreed order as to his visits." The court noted that appellant had started parenting classes.

The review order entered following a December 18, 2012 hearing makes no mention

Page 97

of appellant other than to include a drug screen as one in a list of items received into evidence, and he was apparently not present for that hearing. Appellant was present for the February 12, 2013 review hearing, and at that time, a certificate of completion for appellant's parenting classes was entered into evidence. The court found that he had completed parenting classes and submitted to random drug screens and home visits. The court stated that his visits were to be addressed at the next hearing. At the next hearing on April 16, 2013, appellant was granted supervised visits once a week for one hour. The court stated in its order, " Any outburst and the visits shall cease immediately."

The next hearing was the permanency-planning hearing on April 30, 2013. At that time, the mother testified that she wished to voluntarily relinquish her parental rights, and the court changed the goal of the case to adoption. As to appellant, the court made the following findings: he had completed parenting classes, had submitted to and had negative drug screens and had visitation with D.S.2; appellant did not have a home of his own and only had part-time employment. The court apparently increased his visitation to supervised visits twice a week for an hour and a half per session.[2]

On June 3, 2013, DHS and the attorney ad litem filed a joint petition for termination of parental rights. As to appellant, the petition alleged that under the " subsequent factors" statutory ground[3] he had been established to be the legal father of D.S.2, did not have appropriate housing or sufficient income to care for his child, and had not appropriately addressed his anger issues. At the termination hearing on October 22, 2013, Lakisha Tatum testified that she had been the Lonoke County DHS family-service worker assigned to this case since it was opened in May 2012. She testified that appellant came to the probable-cause hearing in May 2012 and to the initial staffing. There was a period of time when DHS lost contact with appellant for a couple of months. Under the case plan, he was to obtain and maintain employment and maintain stable housing. During this case, appellant went through periods of unemployment, then worked part-time at Hardee's before obtaining his current job at Southern Tire Service. As for housing, he was living with roommates at the time of the hearing, and Tatum testified that she did not believe it would be suitable for a child. She acknowledged that appellant had submitted to drug screens and that drugs had not been an issue in the case; she also testified that he had completed parenting classes. She testified that appellant did not currently have ...


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