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Tillman v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 25, 2015



Dusti Standridge, for appellant.

Tabitha B. McNulty, County Legal Operations; and Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, for appellees.


The Lonoke County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights of appellant Charmell Tillman to her children, F.B. (DOB: 2-22-07), M.B.1 (DOB: 6-25-08), M.B.2 (DOB: 7-16-09), and E.B. (DOB: 7-5-11).[1] Tillman argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the termination. We affirm.

I. Background

On April 23, 2013, Tillman was involved in a domestic dispute with her boyfriend, and she and the boyfriend were arrested. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) discovered that Tillman had left her four sons unsupervised in a place fraught with danger. An ex parte order for emergency custody was entered, and the children were subsequently adjudicated dependent-neglected on the basis that Tillman had failed to protect her children, to which Tillman stipulated. DHS was ordered to provide her with services, including parenting classes and counseling, and she was ordered to maintain stable employment and housing, submit to a forensic psychological evaluation, comply with the terms of her case plan, cooperate and maintain contact with DHS, attend supervised visits, and demonstrate improved parenting. The adjudication order also provided that Tillman was not to use controlled substances, was subject to random drug screens, and would obtain a drug-and-alcohol assessment if she tested positive. Review orders were entered July 23, 2013; December 3, 2013; January 6, 2014;[2] and March 11, 2014. DHS and the attorney ad litem filed a joint petition for termination of parental rights on April 22, 2014, alleging two grounds: Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i) & (vii). Following a hearing, a permanency-planning order was entered changing the goal from reunification to adoption. A termination hearing was held on June 24, 2014, and continued until June 30, 2014, at 1:00 p.m.[3]

Constance Collier, a counselor at Centers for Youth and Families, testified that she received a referral for counseling in November 2013. Collier testified that she immediately contacted Tillman and scheduled her intake appointment for December 2013. Tillman cancelled at the last minute. Collier attempted contacting Tillman without success. Collier was able to schedule an appointment in January 2014, but Tillman did not show up. It was rescheduled, but Tillman cancelled. Collier testified that she offered to meet Tillman anywhere but was told that it was "not a convenient time." The appointment was rescheduled for later in January, but Tillman did not show up. Collier attempted to contact Tillman in February 2014, but Tillman did not return her calls. In late March 2014, Tillman called to make an appointment. By then, Collier was no longer providing counseling services in Lonoke County.

Shiann Metheny, a counselor at Centers for Youth and Families, testified that she received a referral for counseling Tillman in early April 2014. She scheduled an appointment with Tillman at her mother's house. Even though the appointment had been confirmed earlier, no one answered the door. Metheny finally met Tillman for counseling on May 28, 2014. Metheny testified that Tillman had kept all of her scheduled appointments and was making progress.

Dr. Paul Deyoub, a forensic psychologist, testified that he evaluated Tillman on August 22, 2013, and that her background was one of "chaos and dysfunction." Dr. Deyoub testified that Tillman's scores were extreme for depression and that she needed medication and counseling. He stated that she had difficulty managing her children and would need parenting classes. He also stated that Tillman lacked stability. Dr. Deyoub stated that Tillman was living with her stepfather but that it was not an appropriate home because Tillman had alleged that the stepfather physically abused her as a juvenile. He stated that Tillman needed to have her own home, along with a job. According to Dr. Deyoub, Tillman had to address all of those issues before she could take care of her children. Dr. Deyoub testified that the longer Tillman failed to follow his recommendations, the prognosis would diminish. Dr. Deyoub stated that Tillman denied any drug abuse. According to Dr. Deyoub, if Tillman had failed drug screens, that would be "a tremendous setback."

Lakisha Tatum, a caseworker for DHS, testified that she began working with Tillman in mid-October 2013. Tatum conceded that the prior caseworker, who was no longer with DHS, had left the case in a confusing state and failed to provide all of the necessary information such that a new case plan had to be developed in November 2013. Although it appeared as though Tillman had completed parenting and anger-management classes, she had not received any certificates of completion. Tatum testified that, while Tillman had worked at a nursing home when the case was opened, she failed to maintain stable employment. Although she worked at Sonic for a time and styled hair, she presented no pay stubs. Tillman lived with her mother or father throughout the case. She stated that, while Tillman attended most of her supervised visits with the children, she had missed visits due to lack of transportation, even though DHS offered transportation if she gave sufficient notice.

Tatum testified that Tillman tested positive for THC on May 10, 2013; February 18, 2014; March 12, 2014; and March 18, 2014. Tillman completed her first drug-and-alcohol assessment on June 4, 2013, and the recommendations were parenting classes, counseling, and five Access to Recovery (ATR) classes. Tillman attended only two ATR classes in June 2013. A second drug-and-alcohol assessment was scheduled for January 19, 2014, but Tillman did not show up. A hair-follicle test completed on January 28, 2014, was positive for cocaine and THC. Tatum testified that she offered inpatient treatment for substance abuse, but Tillman refused and insisted that she did not have a problem with cocaine. In early April 2014, Tatum inquired about outpatient drug treatment and was informed that Tillman was already an ATR client but that her chart had been closed. In June 2014, Tatum learned that the Family Service Agency had no more funds for ATR clients.

Tatum further testified that the first referral for counseling was made August 1, 2013, but that the counselor needed additional information in November 2013. She agreed that DHS was ordered to provide medication management in October 2013 and again in December 2013; however, DHS could not make the appointment with a doctor until the doctor heard from Tillman's therapist. Tatum conceded that, since May 2014, when Tillman began counseling, nothing had been done to follow up on the medication-management order.

Stacy Johnson, a DHS caseworker, testified that she assisted with the children's transportation to visits with Tillman. Johnson testified that at one of the visits, Tillman had spanked E.B. against court orders. According to Johnson, Tillman said that "she don't give a damn what the judge say." Johnson took E.B. to her office to calm him down, and ...

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