APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. J-2013-196-D/N. HONORABLE THOMAS E. SMITH, JUDGE.
Shannon L. Holloway, for appellant.
Tabitha B. McNulty, County Legal Operations; and Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, for appellees.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge. PITTMAN and GLOVER, JJ., agree.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge
Appellant Tiffany Fox appeals the order of the Benton County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her son, D.C. Her primary argument on appeal is that the circuit court erred in finding that termination was in the best interest of D.C.; specifically, she contends that there was insufficient evidence that D.C. would be subject to potential harm if returned to her custody. We find no error and affirm.
Our standard of review in termination-of-parental-rights cases is well settled. When the issue is one involving the termination of parental rights, there is a heavy burden placed upon the party seeking to terminate the relationship. Stockstill v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2014 Ark.App. 427, 439 S.W.3d 95; Osborne v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 98 Ark.App. 129, 252 S.W.3d 138 (2007). Termination of parental rights is an extreme remedy and in derogation of the natural rights of the parents. Stockstill, supra. Parental rights, however, will not be enforced to the detriment or destruction of the health and well-being of the child. Id. With these standards in mind, we turn to the facts of this case.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services exercised an emergency hold on fiveyear-old D.C. in March 2013, the day after his infant brother, N.F., was killed by Tiffany's husband, Travis Fox. Travis was also accused of killing another of Tiffany's infant sons, T.F., in 2011. The circuit court adjudicated D.C. dependent-neglected six months later. The bases for adjudication were Travis's confession that he caused the deaths of D.C.'s siblings by physical abuse, Tiffany's failure to take reasonable action to protect N.F. from physical abuse by Travis, and her failure to adequately supervise D.C. and N.F. by leaving them in Travis's care. The court concluded that the existence of the potential for abuse was known or should have been known by Tiffany, and her failure to supervise " placed both juveniles at risk of harm and resulted in the death of N.F." The court further found that return of
custody to Tiffany was not in the best interest of the child. In reaching this conclusion, the court looked to the opinion testimony of Dr. Martin Faitak. Dr. Faitak stated that returning D.C. to Tiffany's care would be " actively dangerous for the juvenile," due to Tiffany's borderline personality disorder and her inability to recognize the reality of situations. However, the court did set the goal of the case as reunification at that time and ordered DHS to provide services to Tiffany.
Subsequent to adjudication, the court took periodic review of the services provided and Tiffany's progress toward the goal of reunification. By court order, DHS provided the services of counseling, parenting classes and domestic-violence classes. With regard to counseling, Tiffany began her sessions but did not make significant progress in therapy. Tiffany completed parenting classes and had been attending domestic-violence classes. Despite this attendance, however, an incident occurred wherein the Rogers Police Department received a disturbance call from Tiffany's boyfriend, Aaron Mcabee, that she had choked him during an altercation. As a result of Tiffany's limited progress, the court changed the goal to adoption at permanency planning.
DHS filed its petition for termination of parental rights in March 2014, alleging four statutory grounds. The petition also alleged that D.C. was adoptable and that he was at high risk of potential harm if returned to Tiffany because she had not accomplished her case goals and " continue[d] to be emotionally unstable, continue[d] to engage in dangerous behavior, and . . . demonstrated little insight into her behaviors which put D.C. at risk." custody.
Following a hearing, the circuit court found that DHS had established the necessary statutory grounds and that termination was in D.C.'s best interest. With regard to the potential harm of returning D.C. to Tiffany's custody, the court found not only that Tiffany had not accomplished her case plan goals, but also that she " continues to be emotionally unstable, continues to engage in dangerous behavior, and has demonstrated little insight into her behaviors which put D.C. at risk." It is from the court's termination order that Tiffany brings the instant appeal. Tiffany's primary ...