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Scrivner v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

June 8, 2016

TIMMY SCRIVNER APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. JV-2014-295] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE

          Tina Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, Dependency-Neglect Appellate Division, for appellant.

          Jerald A. Sharum, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         Appellant Timmy Scrivner appeals an order of the Sebastian County Circuit Court terminating his parental rights to his three children, B.S. (08/24/08), A.S. (12/23/10), and K.S. (10/05/11). He raises two arguments on appeal: a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the circuit court's best-interest determination and a due-process challenge based on his absence at the permanency-planning hearing. We affirm.

         We begin our analysis with a recognition that termination of parental rights is an extreme remedy and in derogation of the natural rights of the parents. Crawford v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 330 Ark. 152, 951 S.W.2d 310 (1997). We review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark. 207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). In termination cases, the circuit court must find by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit and that termination is in the best interest of the child. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). This normally involves a two-step analysis: (1) that the Department of Human Services (DHS) prove one or more of the statutory grounds for termination and (2) that the termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A) & (B) (Repl. 2015). Because Scrivner does not challenge the statutory grounds, we will address only the best-interest portion of the analysis.

         I. Best Interest of the Child

         Scrivner first argues that there was insufficient evidence presented at the hearing to support the circuit court's best-interest determination. We now turn our attention to the evidence before the circuit court.

         Scrivner is the father of B.S., A.S., and K.S.[1] Laura Church is the mother of all three children.[2] In April 2014, DHS removed A.S. and K.S. from the custody of Church. The children were removed by DHS for the following reasons: A.S. had burned himself on the forehead with a torch while in the care of Church; Church lived in a "well known drug house"; and Church admitted smoking methamphetamine. B.S. was not removed by DHS because he was not living with Church at the time and was being cared for by the maternal grandmother. At the time of removal, Scrivner was incarcerated.

         DHS filed a petition for dependency-neglect on A.S. and K.S. and an amended petition for dependency-neglect on B.S. The court adjudicated all three children dependent- neglected, granted custody of A.S. and K.S. to DHS, and granted less-than-custody protections for B.S., maintaining the status quo placement of B.S. with the maternal grandmother.

         Throughout most of the proceeding, Scrivner remained incarcerated. He was ordered to obtain and maintain stable and appropriate housing, income, and transportation; complete drug-and-alcohol assessments and all recommended treatment; complete a psychological evaluation and all recommended treatment; complete parenting classes; submit to random drug screens and hair-follicle testing; and visit the children regularly. His compliance with these directives was poor. In a November 2014 review order, the court found that Scrivner had made no progress on the case plan, had not provided any proof of completion of any services obtained in prison, had not completed any parenting classes, and had participated in only one drug screen. The court further found that Scrivner had not visited with the juveniles prior to their placement with the grandmother.

         At the permanency-planning hearing, [3] the court found that Scrivner was not diligently working toward reunification and had not made significant or measurable progress toward achieving the goals established in the case plan, remedying the conditions that caused removal, or remedying the conditions that prohibited the placement of the children in his home. Specifically, the court found that Scrivner had not made any progress on the case plan; had not provided proof of completion of any services obtained in prison; had not provided any evidence that he had maintained stable and appropriate housing, income, or transportation; had not completed parenting classes; had not completed a psychological evaluation or any recommended treatment; had not completed a drug-and-alcohol assessment or any recommended treatment; and had visited the children only twice during the review period.

         DHS subsequently filed a petition to terminate, and after the termination hearing, the circuit court granted the petition. In so doing, the circuit court found that the children would be subject to a great risk of potential harm if returned to Scrivner's custody and that there was little likelihood that continued services would result in reunification. In support of its conclusion, the court noted Scrivner's continuing and untreated substance abuse, as well as his domestic-violence and criminal issues.

         Scrivner argues that the termination of his parental rights was not necessary or essential to protect the best interest of the children. He notes that the children were placed with their maternal grandmother. Because of this placement, he argues that the children were not languishing in the foster-care system; that the relative placement was a less-restrictive alternative to termination, which negated the compelling need for permanency by termination; and that termination would not provide any greater stability for the children. Scrivner also argues that the termination of parental rights was contrary to the best interest of the children by cutting the positive family ties between the children and his family and by ...


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