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Jackson v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas

September 28, 2016



          Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson, by: Kathryn L. Hudson, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, County Legal Operations, for appellee.

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


          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         Appellant Carl Jackson appeals the order of the Conway County Circuit Court terminating his parental rights to his daughter, J.J., and his son, C.J.[1] J.J. and C.J. are both Jackson's children with a common mother, Ycenea Adams.[2] On appeal, Jackson argues that the circuit court erred in finding that termination of his parental rights would be in the best interest of the children; he also argues that the circuit court failed to make the requisite finding of statutory grounds. We find no error and affirm.

          I. Background

         The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) removed J.J. from Adams's custody in early September 2014, alleging that Adams had subjected the child to abuse, threat of harm, failure to protect, inadequate supervision, and environmental neglect. At the time of J.J.'s removal, Adams was pregnant with C.J. DHS filed a dependency-neglect petition against both Adams and Jackson in the circuit court. At the probable-cause hearing, the court found probable cause based on Adams's stipulation, ordered DHS to conduct a home study on Jackson, and also adjudicated Jackson to be the father of J.J. The circuit court ordered Jackson to, among other things, submit to random drug screens, attend and complete parenting classes, submit to a psychological evaluation and to a drug-and-alcohol assessment, and to submit to and successfully complete inpatient/outpatient drug treatment. The court also set the matter for an adjudication hearing on November 20, 2014.

         Prior to the adjudication hearing, several things happened. Jackson filed a petition for custody of J.J. Adams gave birth to C.J., and she gave temporary custody of C.J. to Jackson outside of DHS or court proceedings. At the adjudication hearing, the court adjudicated J.J. dependent-neglected; placed temporary custody of J.J. with Jackson; specifically ordered Jackson to cooperate with DHS, including allowing home visits and submitting to drug tests; and set the matter for a review hearing on March 26, 2015. The court also recognized Adams's placement of C.J. with Jackson.

         Despite the agreement between Jackson and Adams concerning C.J., Jackson had concerns about Adams's contact with the child. On January 6, 2015, Jackson reported to DHS that he felt the baby was in danger with Adams. DHS filed a petition for ex parte emergency custody and dependency-neglect with respect to C.J. The petition alleged that in the preceding months, Adams had been homeless and had been inadequately supervising the baby. The court subsequently adjudicated C.J. dependent-neglected in March 2015 based on Adams's stipulation and based on the prior finding that a sibling was dependent-neglected. The court also adjudicated Jackson the father of C.J. based on stipulation. The court reserved disposition in the matter until the review hearing of March 26, 2015, previously scheduled in J.J.'s case.

         At the review/disposition hearing, J.J. was removed from Jackson's custody. Jackson was suspected of providing fake clean urine samples during DHS drug tests, and he failed a hair-follicle test that showed he was positive for cocaine and THC. During his testimony, Jackson admitted he had not been truthful about his drug use. Accordingly, the court found Jackson's testimony to be lacking in credibility and directed him to return J.J. to DHS's custody that day. In addition, the court ordered Jackson to submit to and complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow all recommendations, and it set J.J.'s case for a permanency-planning hearing (PPH) in July. As to C.J., the court continued custody with DHS and set the matter for review in July, at the same time as the PPH for J.J.

         At the PPH/review hearing, the court changed the goal for both children to adoption. In doing so, the court specifically noted that Jackson's drug-and-alcohol assessment revealed a "high level of deception"; that Jackson had refused to submit to random drug screens; and that, while he had attended nearly all of his visitations, which went well, he had failed to provide documentation that he had completed parenting classes. The court authorized DHS to file a petition for termination of Jackson's parental rights.

         DHS filed separate petitions to terminate Jackson's parental rights. With respect to J.J., DHS alleged the "twelve-months, failure to remedy" ground, Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (Repl. 2015); the "failure to provide significant material support" ground, Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ii)(a); and the "subsequent factors" ground, Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a). With respect to C.J., DHS alleged both "subsequent factors" and that Jackson had submitted the child to aggravated circumstances, in that a determination had been made by a judge that there was little likelihood that services to the family would result in successful reunification. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a).

         Following a hearing, the circuit court granted the petitions to terminate Jackson's parental rights. Regarding J.J., the circuit court found that DHS had proved the "twelvemonths, failure to remedy" ground and the "subsequent factors" ground. As to C.J., the court found that DHS had proved the "subsequent factors" and aggravated-circumstances grounds. In addition, the court found as to both children that termination of Jackson's parental rights was in their best interest, noting ...

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