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Matlock v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

March 11, 2015

JENNIFER MATLOCK, APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION. NO. 60JV2013-1663. HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE.

AFFIRMED; MOTION TO WITHDRAW GRANTED.

Leah Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

Tabitha Baertels McNulty, DHS Office of Policy and Legal Services; and Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, for appellees.

ABRAMSON and HIXSON, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 254

CLIFF HOOFMAN, Judge.

Appellant Jennifer Matlock appeals from the order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her child D.W.[1] Matlock's attorney has filed a no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw as counsel pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i) (2014) and Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004). The clerk of this court mailed a certified copy of counsel's motion and brief to Matlock, informing her of her right to file pro se points for reversal, which she has done. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (" DHS" ) and the minor child filed a joint response to Matlock's pro se points on appeal. We grant counsel's motion to withdraw and affirm the order of termination.

On October 10, 2013, DHS filed a petition for ex parte emergency custody and dependency-neglect of then eight-month-old D.W. In the affidavit attached to the petition, DHS stated that D.W. was placed on a seventy-two-hour hold on October 7, 2013, after Wilkins and Matlock had been stopped and arrested by a police officer on felony charges. Wilkins was driving a stolen car from a " dope dealer" with Matlock and D.W. riding as passengers. Additionally, both parents tested positive for cocaine on October 8, 2013. The trial court granted the petition on October 10, 2013, finding that probable cause existed for the

Page 255

removal and ordering a probable-cause hearing on October 14, 2013. After the probable-cause hearing, the trial court noted that the parties had stipulated to probable cause existing for the removal. Additionally, the trial court ordered family services, permitted supervised visitation contingent on negative drug screens, and set reunification as the case goal.

After a December 9, 2013 adjudication hearing, the trial court found by a preponderance of the evidence that D.W. was dependent-neglected. DHS filed a motion to terminate reunification services on March 31, 2014, alleging that D.W. had been subjected to aggravated circumstances. After a review hearing, the trial court found that the parents were not in compliance, that DHS should continue to provide services, and that Matlock was to be screened for drugs. Subsequently, after a hearing on May 5, 2014, on DHS's motion to terminate reunification services, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that DHS's motion to terminate reunification services should be granted, found that there were aggravating circumstances, changed the case goal to termination of parental rights with adoption, and set a termination-of-parental-rights hearing.

DHS formally filed a petition for termination of parental rights on May 23, 2014, and an amended petition for termination of parental rights on May 27, 2014. DHS alleged four separate grounds for termination with respect to Matlock under Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Supp. 2013): (1) that the court has found the juvenile or a sibling dependent-neglected as a result of neglect or abuse that could endanger the life of the child, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation, any of which was perpetrated by the juvenile's parent or parents or stepparent or stepparents; (2) that the parent is sentenced in a criminal proceeding for a period of time that would constitute a substantial period of the juvenile's life; (3) that the parent is found by a court of competent jurisdiction, including the juvenile division of circuit court, to have subjected any juvenile to aggravated circumstances; and (4) that other factors or issues arose subsequent to the filing of the original petition for dependency-neglect that demonstrate that placement of the juvenile in the custody of the parent is contrary to the juvenile's health, safety, or welfare and that, despite the offer of appropriate family services, the parent has manifested the incapacity or indifference to remedy the subsequent issues or factors or rehabilitate the parent's circumstances that prevent the placement of the juvenile in the custody of the parent.

A termination hearing was held on August 4, 2014. Matlock testified at the hearing that D.W. was taken by DHS after she was arrested when she and D.W. were riding in a stolen car with D.W.'s father. When she was not incarcerated from approximately January 30, 2014, to April 16, 2014, she visited D.W. only five times, despite having transportation and the opportunity to visit every Monday. She also chose not to participate in or complete any other services offered by DHS. She admitted that she did not visit or complete any services because she was " on drugs again" and she did not have a stable home. Her last date of employment was in October 2013. On her last visit with D.W., she had tested positive for cocaine, and she was arrested that same day. At the time of the hearing, she testified that she had been incarcerated for about three months and was serving a five-year ...


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