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Whitt v. Arkansas Dep't of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 6, 2015

GREGORY WHITT APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. JV-2013-404-3. HONORABLE STACEY. ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE.

Suzanne Ritter Lumpkin, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, Dependency-Neglect Appellate Division, for appellant.

Tabitha B. McNulty, County Legal Operations, for appellee.

Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., and ABRAMSON, J., agree.

OPINION

BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

Gregory Whitt appeals the order of the Washington County Circuit Court that gave custody of three of his children, J.W., G.W., and T.W., to their mother, Jennifer Shirley, and closed the dependency-neglect

Page 387

case. He argues that the circuit court erred in finding that placement with Jennifer was in the children's best interest. We affirm.

We explained the underlying facts of this case in a previous opinion:

In June 2013, the Department of Human Services (DHS) exercised a 72-hour hold on Gregory Whitt's three children after he had been arrested for domestic violence, public intoxication, and endangering the welfare of a minor. The children's mother, Jennifer Shirley, was living in Florida at the time. Gregory had obtained custody of the three children by an August 2012 agreed order.
The children were placed in foster care, and the circuit court later adjudicated the children dependent-neglected. In its adjudication order, the court made the following findings regarding the night the children entered DHS's custody: Gregory and his girlfriend were drunk when the police arrived at their house; Gregory placed one of the children between him and the door to prevent the police from entering; and his girlfriend had a bloody lip.
At the hearing, the court ordered the children to remain in foster care. A no-contact order was already in place between Gregory and his children. The court ordered Gregory to undergo counseling and be drug tested. Jennifer, appearing at the hearing via telephone, was ordered to submit to a hair-follicle test, undergo a psychological evaluation, and be present at the next review hearing.
The court held the six-month-review hearing in October 2013. Both Gregory and Jennifer appeared; neither was represented by counsel. The first witness was Ritchie McFarland, the family-service worker. He testified that Gregory had completed counseling but had failed a drug test. McFarland recommended that the children stay in foster care. He had concerns regarding Gregory, who had said he knew where ...

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