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Chapman v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I and IV

October 1, 2014

SHARON CHAPMAN and SHANNON RIDDLE, SR., APPELLANTS
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILD, APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. JV-2013-96. HONORABLE MICHAEL MEDLOCK, JUDGE.

LEAH BETH LANFORD.

TABITHA BAERTELS MCNULTY.

MICHAEL ALAN MOATS.

RHONDA K. WOOD, Judge. WYNNE, GRUBER, HIXSON, and BROWN, JJ., agree. HARRISON, J., dissents.

OPINION

Page 565

RHONDA K. WOOD, Judge

This is a no-merit appeal from a circuit court's order terminating the parental rights of Sharon Chapman and Shannon Riddle, Sr., to their son S.R., age nine. Counsel for appellants filed a motion to withdraw as counsel and a no-merit brief pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i). Neither parent filed pro se points for reversal. The attorney ad litem filed a letter stating he did not find merit to an appeal and declined his option to file a brief. After a complete review, we affirm the termination and grant the motion to withdraw.

On April 19, 2013, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) received a report of suspected educational neglect of S.R. due to his being absent from school since March 11, 2013. DHS found the allegation true and opened a protective-service case. On May 29, 2013, residents of an apartment complex contacted law enforcement after they observed S.R. " dumpster diving" for food. When law enforcement arrived, they found S.R. with multiple faded bruises on his legs and a bruised eye. S.R. told the police that his dad had " bashed his head into a car" and had whipped him with a belt. The police reported that S.R.'s ribs were visible and he was very thin. Upon further questioning, S.R. reported that he had sometimes gone two months without food[1] and that his dad would not let him go to school because of " my bruises and welts." DHS fed S.R. chicken nuggets, and when questioned as to why he was eating slowly, he stated " I'm going to save them for later."

Upon a physical exam, the doctor reported that S.R. was underweight at 58 lbs., had bruises on his eyes and knees, had a lesion on his wrist, expressed suicidal ideations, and had a dental contusion. The police arrested the father, Shannon Riddle, and charged him with endangering the welfare of a minor. The mother's whereabouts were unknown. DHS took an emergency hold on S.R.

The court adjudicated S.R. dependent-neglected. This was the third dependency-neglect case involving S.R. While the court's order stated the goal was reunification, the court approved the DHS case plan of termination and adoption and also set a no-reunification hearing. Seven months later, the court terminated appellants' parental rights.

In termination-of-parental-rights cases, our standard of review is de novo. We explained in Pine v. Arkansas Department of Human Services as follows:

Page 566

Grounds for termination of parental rights must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, which is that degree of proof that will produce in the finder of fact a firm conviction of the allegation sought to be established. . . . Termination of parental rights is an extreme remedy and in derogation of a parent's natural rights; however, parental rights will not be enforced to the detriment or destruction on the health and well-being of the child.
In order to terminate parental rights, a trial court must find by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the best interest of the juvenile, taking into consideration that (1) likelihood that the juvenile will be adopted if the termination petition is granted; and (2) the potential harm, specifically addressing the effect on the health and safety of the child, caused by returning the child to the custody of the parent. Additionally, the ...

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