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Moore v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

June 22, 2016

EVETTE MOORE APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE ST. FRANCIS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. JV-14-181] HONORABLE ANN B. HUDSON, JUDGE

          Kimberly Eden, for appellant.

          Jerald A. Sharum, County Legal Operations, for appellee.

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

          Kinard and Whiteaker, JJ., agree.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

         Appellant Evette Moore appeals from the July 7, 2015 order of the St. Francis County Circuit Court that awarded permanent custody of her son A.M. to his paternal uncle, Eddie Aldridge.[1] Moore's attorney has filed a no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw as counsel pursuant to Rule 6-9(i) of the Rules of the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004).[2] The clerk of this court mailed a certified copy of counsel's motion and brief to Moore at her last known address informing her of her right to file pro se points for reversal, and Moore filed pro se points for our consideration. The Department of Human Services ("DHS") and the child's attorney ad litem filed a joint response, agreeing with appellate counsel that there is no issue of arguable merit to raise on appeal. We grant counsel's motion to withdraw and affirm the order awarding permanent custody to A.M.'s paternal uncle.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         A.M. came into DHS's emergency custody as the result of a child-abuse hotline call. On July 10, 2014, Moore had summoned the St. Francis County Sheriff's Department to her home insisting that they take A.M. out of her house or she would kill him; Moore was intoxicated. She had reported that she was mad because a relative had bought A.M. an expensive pair of shoes. The affidavit in support of emergency custody recited that Moore had a history with DHS: A.M. had come into foster care in May 2012, which lasted until August 2012, and there was a true finding of inadequate supervision in May 2014. A protective-services case was opened on July 10, 2014 at 2:30 a.m. DHS recommended that A.M. be placed in foster care and that the names of family and friends "be gathered and researched for possible home studies." An ex parte order for emergency custody was entered.

         On July 15, 2014, a probable-cause hearing was conducted. The trial court found that "the mother was intoxicated and threatening the child." At the adjudication hearing on August 26, 2014, Moore "stipulated to inadequate supervision based on [being] under the influence of intoxicating substances." DHS was ordered to conduct home studies on relatives interested in having custody of A.M. The minor was placed in a residential treatment facility called WoodRidge in August or September 2014 to treat behavioral issues.[3]

         A review hearing was conducted on October 28, 2014. At that point, Moore had "somewhat complied" by attending substance-abuse classes and AA meetings, but she continued to "struggle with alcohol abuse." Moore admitted that she had battled alcoholism since childhood but that she had been sober for over a month. She also admitted that she had tried to commit suicide because she was unable to cope with the stressors in her life. A.M. remained in the residential treatment facility; he had not yet completed the treatment program. At the conclusion of the review hearing, the trial court kept reunification with Moore as the goal with a concurrent goal of relative placement. The trial court ordered that when A.M. was released from treatment, he was not to return home to his mother.

         The matter was reviewed again on January 13, 2015. The concurrent goals remained reunification and relative placement. A.M.'s paternal uncle, Eddie Aldridge, testified that A.M. stayed with him over the holiday break and that A.M. was well behaved. A.M. was still residing at the treatment facility. Aldridge stated that his (Aldridge's) mother and sister lived across the street, enabling them to spend time together. He stated that he could be a calming influence and a good role model in A.M.'s life. Again, Moore was found to have "somewhat complied." The trial court again ordered that when A.M. was released, he was not to be returned to his mother's home. The trial court entered an order giving temporary custody to Aldridge. Moore's visitation was ordered to be supervised.

         Court reports indicated that A.M. was released from residential treatment on January 26, 2015, and he was happy to be living with his uncle. A.M. was attending school. Moore was permitted telephone contact with A.M., and DHS provided her transportation for supervised visitation.

         On March 3, 2015, another review hearing was conducted. The trial court reiterated that Moore was somewhat in compliance with her outpatient counseling and AA meetings. The trial court ordered Moore to continue to attend to counseling, meetings, and also attend a day treatment for her mental-health issues.

         A court report dated June 16, 2015, noted that A.M. was having problems adjusting to his new school but that he remained happy to be with his uncle. Moore was noted to have completed parenting classes, and she was continuing ...


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