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Warren v. Arkansas Dep't of Human Servs.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 17, 2014

JENNIE WARREN, APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILDREN, APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. JV 2013-43-3. HONORABLE STACEY A. ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE.

Suzanne Ritter Lumpkin, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, Dependency-Neglect Appellate Division, 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.

OPINION

Page 73

ROBIN F. WYNNE, Judge.

Jennie Warren appeals from the order of the circuit court terminating her parental rights to her children, B.W.A., D.S., and I.W.[1] She argues on appeal that there was not sufficient evidence presented at the termination-of-parental-rights hearing to support the findings made by the circuit court. We affirm.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS or the Department) exercised a seventy-two-hour emergency hold on the children after it received a hotline call indicating that three-month-old B.W.A. had sustained a subdural hematoma and bite marks alleged to have been caused by appellant. A worker who visited the home saw that the children were in dirty diapers and had dirty feet. The family had an open protective-services case at the time and had a previous protective-services case that was open from December 2010 until April 2011.

In March 2013, the circuit court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected based on abuse and neglect due to inadequate supervision and " moving every few weeks to couple of months." In the adjudication order, the circuit court noted that when B.W.A. sustained a subdural hematoma, appellant and the children were living with people appellant had only known for a few weeks and that appellant entrusted them to supervise the children without knowing their last names. The goal of the case was set as reunification with appellant. In a review order entered on April 25, 2013, the circuit court found that

Page 74

B.W.A. sustained a nonaccidental brain injury as a result of being " horrifically abused" while in the custody of appellant. Following the permanency-planning hearing, the circuit court found that appellant was not complying with the case plan, was not making progress toward the goals in the case plan, and was not diligently working toward reunification. The circuit court also found that appellant had not maintained stable housing, had not maintained adequate income for herself and the children, and had not demonstrated that she could properly parent the children and keep them safe. According to the testimony at the permanency-planning hearing, appellant continued to have contact with Marquis Agee, B.W.A.'s father, despite indicating that he was previously violent toward her while she was pregnant with B.W.A. She was also pregnant with his child at the time of the permanency-planning hearing. Based on its findings, the circuit court changed the goal of the case to termination of parental rights and adoption.

The Department filed a petition to terminate appellant's parental rights on November 27, 2013. The hearing on the petition was held on February 20, 2014. Lauren Patton, the DHS caseworker assigned to the case, testified that appellant's income was from various forms of government assistance, which she stated was insufficient to care for appellant and the children. Appellant was not employed. Appellant had obtained a three-bedroom apartment in November through assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She had government-assisted housing previously when she lived in Star City, but lost it after being arrested. According to Ms. Patton, appellant still had not demonstrated that she could parent all four of her children. There was testimony that appellant's visits with the children were chaotic, with the children running around and stepping on and over appellant's youngest child, who was an infant. Appellant had canceled one visit because it was cold and had canceled another visit because a friend was having a baby. Ms. Patton also testified that appellant had Marquis Agee over to her apartment despite having an order of protection against him. She also testified regarding testimony at an earlier hearing that B.W.A.'s brain injury was " like he was dropped from the second story of a building." According to Ms. Patton, the children were very likely to be adopted.

Appellant testified that she had a job cleaning buildings that paid $500 per month, in cash. Appellant also had an application for disability pending. She had been attempting to obtain disability benefits since age sixteen. Appellant also testified that she believed she had stable housing because she had been in her current apartment for four months. Appellant stated that she still believed that the protective order against Marquis Agee was necessary because she does not feel safe around him due to ...


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