APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 26JV-14-284. HONORABLE VICKI SHAW COOK, JUDGE.
Leah Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, 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.
ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge. GLOVER and HOOFMAN, JJ., agree.
ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge
Appellant James Cox appeals from the Garland County Circuit Court's September 24, 2014 order terminating his parental rights to his children, K.C. and Z.C. Appellant argues that the termination of parental rights (TPR) was in contravention of Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-341(a)(3) (Supp. 2013) and was not in the children's best interest. We affirm.
On March 16, 2014, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (ADHS) responded to a request for a safety assessment based on allegations that appellant provided alcohol to, and had sexual contact with, D.B.--a teenage girl with whom he stood in loco parentis. Appellant had been in a long-term relationship with D.B.'s mother, Amanda Weston, and had two children with her--K.C. and Z.C. ADHS entered into a safety agreement with Ms. Weston in which she was allowed to retain custody of the children if she did not allow appellant to have contact with them; however, on April 6, 2014, ADHS received information that Ms. Weston was not abiding by the agreement. As a result, ADHS placed an emergency hold on K.C. and Z.C., along with Ms. Weston's two children from a prior relationship. The circuit court entered an order of emergency custody, as well as a subsequent order finding probable cause to maintain the children in ADHS custody, and appellant was referred for a psychological evaluation pending the adjudication hearing.
Appellant completed the psychological evaluation with forensic psychologist Dr. George DeRoeck on April 29, 2014. Appellant also completed six weekly sessions with therapist Lee Lowder, to whom ADHS referred appellant for counseling, and Mr. Lowder issued a narrative report just prior to the adjudication hearing.
On June 25, 2014, the circuit court held an adjudication hearing and found that the children were dependent-neglected due, in part, to appellant's sexual abuse of D.B. The circuit court further found aggravated circumstances based on that abuse, and applied the aggravated-circumstances findings to K.C. and Z.C. as well, based on their being half-siblings of D.B., whose life was endangered by appellant when he provided sufficient alcohol to D.B. that her blood-alcohol level was .29 at the time of the incident. The circuit court allowed appellant supervised visitation with K.C. and Z.C. only, with the length of the visits to be within the discretion of the children's therapist, David Todd. The goal of the case was reunification with Ms. Weston, with ADHS to provide appellant with services.
On July 1, 2014, before the adjudication order was entered, ADHS filed a motion for reconsideration, seeking to set aside a portion of the adjudication order regarding appellant's visitation. ADHS asserted that Mr. Todd, who testified at the adjudication hearing, was not aware that the allegations surrounding the incident with D.B. had been substantiated, that since the adjudication, appellant had been formally charged with sexual assault, and that the caseworker and the therapist had recommended visitation only because they thought the goal would be reunification with both parents. ADHS further stated that it would be seeking termination of
appellant's parental rights because the goal was now " reunification with ...