APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. No. J13-387-3. HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE.
Leah Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, Dependency-Neglect Appellate Division, for appellant.
Tabitha Baertels McNulty, Office of Policy & Legal Services, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.
LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge. HOOFMAN and BROWN, JJ., agree.
LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge
Appellant Khosrow Gyalog appeals the permanency-planning order, changing the goal of his children's dependency-neglect case from reunification to adoption, and the subsequent order terminating his parental rights. He argues that both orders
were against the children's best interest. We affirm.
On June 6, 2013, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect as to K.G.1, then eleven years old, and K.G.2, then seven years old. The petitions were based upon their mother's drug use and the physical environment in which they were living. Gyalog, their father, was incarcerated at the time. The court entered the emergency order the same day, and on June 10, 2013, a probable-cause order was entered. On August 2, 2013, the court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected due to neglect and parental unfitness. Gyalog attended that hearing via telephone and was permitted to continue writing letters to the children. The court ordered DHS to facilitate weekly visits between Gyalog and the children as soon as Gyalog was released and ordered that a home study be conducted on Jeanette Rayburn, Gyalog's sister who lived in California. At a December 18, 2013 review hearing, the court ordered in-person visitation between Gyalog and the children at his work-release facility. The court noted that he had maintained contact with DHS and with the children.
Gyalog's counsel filed a motion to continue the permanency-planning hearing, scheduled for April 30, 2014, on the grounds that the home study had not been completed on Rayburn. The court took testimony from the children's therapist, who was present in the courtroom at the time, then continued the hearing until May 30, 2014. When the permanency-planning hearing resumed in May, the home-study results had not yet been returned, but the court proceeded with the hearing.
Lori Johnson, the former DHS caseworker assigned to this case, testified about the delays in conducting the home study, explaining that she had not been able to contact Rayburn for quite some time, despite leaving messages for her. She testified that Rayburn was equivocal about the placement. Johnson also testified that, even if the home-study results permitted placement with Rayburn, she would recommend against such placement because the children were now closely bonded with their foster parents, who wanted to adopt them.
The new caseworker, Margot Gaston, testified that Gyalog exhibited bizarre and overly affectionate behavior during visitation with the children, forcing them to kiss him and each other on the lips and holding them like infants. Although she had taught the children to use " safe words" should they feel uncomfortable, she testified that they never used the words. However, she was sufficiently concerned about Gyalog's behavior to mention it to the children's therapist. Both the CASA worker and the warden at Gyalog's work-release center testified that Gyalog's behavior was normal for a ...