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Lansdell v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

September 28, 2016

NIKKI LANSDELL APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND T.M., MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. JV 2015-005-3], HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          Harrison and Kinard, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         Nikki Lansdell appeals from the permanency-planning order placing permanent custody of her daughter, T.M., with the child's paternal grandparents and awarding Nikki visitation. On appeal, Nikki argues that the evidence is insufficient to support the circuit court's decision to not apply statutory permanency-planning goal one, two, or three from Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-338 (Repl. 2015). We affirm.

         On February 8, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services ("DHS") exercised an emergency hold over T.M. after Nikki had been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, use of a communication device to facilitate drug activity, criminal use of property, and unlawful entry of contaminated property.[1] The charges were related to an active meth lab at Nikki's residence. Nikki lived in the residence with her husband, Vaughn Lansdell, and T.M. At the time of her arrest, Nikki tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opiates, oxycodone, and marijuana. T.M.'s father, Matthew McCoy, had supervised visitation with T.M. pursuant to a divorce decree.

         On February 13, 2015, the court found probable cause for the emergency custody as a result of Nikki's drug use, her criminal charges, and the domestic violence in the home. The court noted that Nikki was in jail. Upon her release, the court ordered her to participate in individual counseling; refrain from using drugs and alcohol; submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment; follow the recommendation from the assessment; submit to weekly random drug screens; obtain and maintain stable housing and employment; resolve all criminal charges; and demonstrate the ability to protect T.M. and keep her safe from harm. As a result of the domestic violence, the court also ordered that Vaughn have no contact with T.M. The court placed T.M. with her paternal grandparents, Theresa and Mike McCoy.

         On March 6, 2015, the court adjudicated T.M. dependent-neglected. The court noted that Nikki remained in jail but continued its orders from the probable-cause hearing. The court also set the goal of the case as reunification and ordered that Nikki have supervised visitation with T.M. upon her release from jail.

         On July 31, 2015, the court held a review hearing. The court found that Nikki was in partial compliance with the case. Specifically, the court found that she had not maintained contact with DHS or obtained stable housing. The court further noted that Nikki's criminal charges were still pending. The court found that Nikki had completed the drug-and-alcohol assessment, had taken parenting classes, and had attended two counseling sessions. The court authorized Vaughn to participate in counseling with T.M. upon approval by the counselor.

         On November 6, 2015, the court held a permanency-planning hearing. At the hearing, Antoinette Johnson, the DHS caseworker, recommended that the court permanently place T.M. with her paternal grandparents, Theresa and Mike McCoy. Johnson testified that T.M. was doing well in the McCoys' home, and she questioned Nikki's stability. She recognized that Nikki had an apartment in Fayetteville with her husband Vaughn but feared the residence was only temporary. She explained that Nikki had moved from residence to residence in the past and that her criminal charges were still pending. She also voiced concerns about T.M.'s emotional state and noted that Vaughn had an extensive criminal history that included violent crimes and pending criminal charges.

         Theresa McCoy testified that T.M. had acclimated well to her home and that she wanted T.M. to remain there. She noted that T.M. has glaucoma and that she puts eye drops in every night. She explained that T.M. had an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist in Little Rock in February to better diagnose the problem. She testified that she had been supervising T.M.'s visits with Nikki and that the visits had gone well. She discussed one occasion where Nikki and her ex-husband had a verbal altercation, [2] but she noted that Nikki had been appropriate in T.M.'s presence. Matthew McCoy, T.M.'s father, testified that he wanted his daughter to live with his parents.

         Nikki testified that she wanted T.M. to return to her home. She denied that Vaughn had a history of violence and further denied that he had pending criminal charges. She stated that he was on probation for a drug-paraphernalia charge. She stated that T.M. is not afraid of Vaughn and that T.M. wanted to see him. Nikki testified that she is participating in the drug-court program for the charges that led to T.M.'s removal. ...


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