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Qualls v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

June 3, 2015

MARY ANN QUALLS APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE YELL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT NO.JV-2013-35] HONORABLE TERRY SULLIVAN, JUDGE

Suzanne Ritter Lumpkin, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

No response.

WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

Appellant appeals from the circuit court's termination of her parental rights to T.H., born 4/5/2013.[1] Appellant's counsel has filed a motion to withdraw as counsel and a no-merit brief pursuant to Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, [2] and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i), [3] stating that there are no meritorious grounds to support an appeal. The clerk mailed a certified copy of counsel's motion and brief to appellant, informing her of her right to file pro se points for reversal. Appellant has filed no pro se points. We affirm and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.

At the time of T.H.'s birth, a report was made to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline alleging that T.H. had been born with an illegal substance in his system, as appellant had tested positive for marijuana at the time of T.H.'s birth and had admitted to using marijuana during her pregnancy. Despite the report, following an assessment by a family-services worker (FSW), T.H. was allowed to be discharged from the hospital with appellant.

The FSW later learned that appellant had outstanding warrants for multiple drug-related offenses specifically involving methamphetamine.[4] Appellant was arrested on her outstanding warrants on April 12, 2013. Due to there being no appropriate caretaker for T.H. at that time of her arrest, a 72-hour hold was taken on T.H. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect on April 15, 2013. The circuit court granted DHS's petition in its ex-parte order for emergency custody entered April 16, 2013.

The circuit court entered a probable-cause order on May 10, 2013, finding probable cause by stipulation of the parties. T.H. was adjudicated dependent-neglected as a result of neglect-as stipulated by the parties-in the circuit court's adjudication and disposition order entered July 9, 2013. Of note, appellant was ordered to (1) cooperate with DHS, (2) have a psychological evaluation and follow its recommendation, (3) participate in individual/family counseling as recommended by a therapist, (4) attend parenting classes, (5) complete a drug and alcohol assessment, (6) refrain from use of illegal drugs and alcohol, (7) obtain and maintain stable housing and employment adequate for herself and T.H., and (8) demonstrate an ability to protect T.H. and keep him safe from harm. Furthermore, appellant was ordered to submit to random drug screens, as well as drug screens prior to her scheduled visitations with T.H. The goal of the case was reunification.

In its review order entered October 25, 2013, the circuit court found that appellant had complied with "some" of the court orders and the case plan, specifically noting that she had completed parenting classes, had been appropriate with T.H. during visitations, and had made "some" progress toward alleviating or mitigating the causes of T.H.'s removal from her home. The court specifically ordered appellant to undergo a psychological evaluation, have the drug and alcohol assessment as previously ordered, and obtain appropriate housing and employment. In its review order entered January 10, 2014, regarding appellant's compliance with the case plan, the court restated its findings from its October 25, 2013 review order. Furthermore, appellant was ordered "to enter inpatient treatment forthwith."

In its permanency-planning order, entered April 21, 2014, the circuit court continued the goal of reunification, stating that placement of T.H. in appellant's home shall occur within a time frame consistent with T.H.'s needs, but no later than three months from the date of the permanency-planning hearing. The circuit court found that appellant had complied with the case plan and the court's order, [5] specifically finding that she "[had] made progress in this matter although it is late progress" and had continued to have clean drug screens.

In its July 11, 2014 review order, the circuit court changed the goal of the case from reunification to termination of appellant's parental rights and adoption of T.H. The circuit court noted that while appellant had completed residential inpatient treatment on February 24, 2014, had completed parenting classes, and had completed a psychological evaluation, appellant lived with her grandmother and father, the latter of whom was on probation for felony drug charges. Furthermore, a petition to revoke appellant's probation had been filed due to a number of her failures, including her failing two drug screens (one for THC and amphetamines and the other for amphetamines only). Due to her failed drug screens, she had been arrested at her place of employment, Burger King, on June 25, 2014, and was in possession of drug paraphernalia at that time. The circuit court noted that appellant had not been attending counseling; had not been able to produce samples for some of her drug screens-some failures which occurred during the same time she had positive drug screens with her probation officer; had missed one visit with T.H. since the last hearing; had not visited T.H. since being incarcerated; and had admitted to using methamphetamines and marijuana on June 22, 2014. Finally, the court noted that Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork had been completed on appellant's mother, Kelly Flowers, who lived in California with her husband and wanted custody of T.H. The circuit court found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide family services to achieve the goal of reunification in this order and each of its prior orders.

DHS filed its petition for termination of appellant's parental rights on August 6, 2014, on grounds that:

1. A juvenile has been adjudicated by the court to be dependent-neglected and has continued out of the custody of the parent for twelve (12) months and, despite a meaningful effort by the department to rehabilitate the parent and correct the conditions that caused removal, those conditions have not been remedied by the parent;[6]
2. Subsequent to the filing of the original petition for dependency-neglect, other factors or issues arose which demonstrate that return of the juvenile to the family home 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 ...

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