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Tuck v. Arkansas Dep't of Human Servs.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 17, 2014



Peel Law Firm, P.A., by: Jennifer L. Modersohn, for appellant.

Tabitha Baertels McNulty, Office of Policy and Legal Services, for appellee.

Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

HARRISON and GLOVER, JJ., agree.



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Danielle Tuck and Dustin Tuck appeal from an order of the Benton County Circuit Court terminating their parental rights to their children, E.T., M.T., and J.T. They argue on appeal that the circuit court erred by finding that at least one ground for termination had been proved and that termination was in the children's best interest. They also argue that the circuit court erred by holding the termination hearing more than ninety days after the petition was filed. We affirm.

On December 20, 2012, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS or the Department) took a seventy-two-hour hold on the children as a result of Danielle'S being observed " slumped" over the wheel of her vehicle with J.T. in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat drinking spoiled milk from a bottle. The affidavit submitted in support of the petition for emergency custody states that Danielle was arrested for driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a minor. Dustin was incarcerated at the time of the incident. In February 2013, the circuit

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court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected due to Danielle's substance abuse. The adjudication order also notes that Dustin was incarcerated and was not a fit and proper parent at that time. In the adjudication order, the circuit court found that the parents had an obligation and the ability to pay child support. Following a review hearing in April 2013, the children were continued in DHS custody and the goal of the case was set as reunification. In a permanency-planning order filed on August 27, 2013, the circuit court found that both parents were in partial compliance with the case plan and that neither parent had made substantial, measurable progress. The goal of the case was changed to termination of parental rights and adoption. Danielle was ordered to contact DHS upon her release from jail, and DHS was ordered to determine the appropriateness of placing the children with their grandparents.

The Department filed a petition to terminate appellants' parental rights on October 3, 2013. The hearing on the petition was held on January 7, 2014. At the hearing, Danielle Tuck testified that she was in jail in Benton County from August 2013 to November 2013 as a result of the DWI charge she received the day that the children were taken into custody. She also testified that she received a DWI charge in July 2013 in which her blood-alcohol content was 0.16. Danielle testified that her July 2013 charge was resolved. She had been active in Alcoholics Anonymous since her release from jail, but had not received any other treatment since her release, despite being referred for counseling. She completed treatment at Decision Point prior to her July 2013 DWI charge. She started working at Taco Bell in December 2013. This was her only employment during the case. Danielle testified that she was moving into an apartment in Rogers. Prior to that, she had lived in a motel. Danielle did not anticipate having transportation until March 2014. Danielle missed some visits with the children while she was in jail and on other occasions when she did not have a ride. She also tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, during the case. Danielle testified that she was going to stay in her relationship with Dustin until " death do us part." Danielle was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was prescribed medication. She voluntarily stopped taking her medication and had not taken any since her release from jail.

Dustin testified that he was incarcerated in the Department of Correction. He received a ten-year sentence in 2009. He was paroled twice since that time, and violated his parole both times. Dustin stated that he does not believe that Danielle has ever had a problem with alcohol. He also testified that neither he nor Danielle had paid any child support while the children had been in the Department's custody.

Vince Corbino, the DHS caseworker assigned to the case, testified that the children are adoptable. He expressed concerns with Danielle's mental health, specifically her refusal to take her medication, and her sobriety. He gave his opinion that he did not believe that Danielle had ...

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