FROM THE UNION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 70JV-15-10]
HONORABLE EDWIN KEATON, JUDGE.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
LARRYD. VAUGHT, Judge.
Dade appeals the February 26, 2016 order of the Union County
Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her son,
R.M. (born January 28, 2013). Her son was taken into
emergency custody by the Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) in January 2015. DHS filed a petition to
terminate Dade's parental rights in September 2015, which
was granted in February 2016. On appeal, Dade argues that the
decision to terminate her parental rights was clearly
erroneous because there is insufficient evidence of the
ground to support the decision. She also argues that it was
error for the trial court to permit her to proceed without an
attorney. We affirm.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 213, 40 S.W.3d 286, 291 (2001). At least one statutory
ground must exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the
child's best interest to terminate parental
rights; these must be proved by
clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3) (Repl. 2015). Clear and convincing evidence is
that degree of proof that will produce in the fact finder a
firm conviction as to the allegation sought to be
established. Anderson v. Douglas, 310 Ark. 633, 637,
839 S.W.2d 196, 198 (1992).
standard of review in appeals of
termination-of-parental-rights cases is de novo, but we
reverse a trial court's decision to terminate parental
rights only when it is clearly erroneous. Ullom v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 340 Ark. 615, 621, 12 S.W.3d
204, 208 (2000). A finding is clearly erroneous when,
although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court
on the entire evidence is left with a distinct and firm
conviction that a mistake was made. Wade v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 337 Ark. 353, 356, 990 S.W.2d
509, 511 (1999). In these cases, we must give due regard to
the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility
of the witnesses. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 248, 947 S.W.2d 761, 763 (1997).
instant case, the trial court found that DHS proved by clear
and convincing evidence that Dade had subjected R.M. to
aggravated circumstances pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §
circumstances" means a determination has been made by a
judge that there is little likelihood that services to the
family will result in successful reunification. Ark. Code
Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3)(B). Dade,
who suffers from a mental disability, challenges this
finding, arguing that the evidence demonstrated that she had
successfully reunited with R.M. in the past after having
received inpatient mental-health treatment and that DHS
failed to provide her intensive mental-health services during
this case. Therefore, she argues that
the finding that there was little likelihood that services
would result in successful reunification was based on
speculation. We disagree.
December 2015 hearing, DHS caseworker Carolyn Samuel
testified that R.M. had been removed from Dade's custody
in February 2013 and in January
2015 based on her mental instability. Dade had been diagnosed
with delusional disorder and paranoid personality disorder.
In the instant case, DHS offered visitation; counseling
services, which Dade discontinued; medication management,
which Dade declined; a psychological evaluation; and home
visits. Samuel stated that Dade's behavior was
"completely different" now than what it had been in
February 2013. Now, Dade spoke "gibberish" at
visitation. Other DHS employees reported Dade's more
recent erratic behavior. Samuel testified that she recently
witnessed Dade in the middle of the street, wearing
inappropriate "skimpy" clothing, cursing at a man.
When confronted, Dade denied it. Samuel stated that Dade had
been arrested for aggravated assault in September 2015.
Despite the increased number of incidents of unstable
behavior, Samuel testified that Dade continued to deny
needing mental-health treatment.
counselor, Wendy Makus, testified that Dade had not attended
counseling since June 2015, and had missed multiple
appointments. Makus also testified that it was unknown
whether Dade was taking her medication. Makus added that Dade
had been involuntarily committed in January 2015 and June
2015 based on her unstable behavior and that Dade denied the
behavior that led to the admissions. The counselor said that
she had concerns about Dade's mental stability and her
ability to parent and that Dade had little insight into her
Dorado Police Officer Anthony Ross testified about two
interactions with Dade. The first was in January 2015 when he
was called to her home for a welfare check. He said that her
behavior was unstable and erratic, she spoke gibberish and
otherwise refused to communicate, paced constantly, charged
at DHS representatives, and had to be restrained. This
incident led to a hospital admission. Officer Ross's
second interaction with Dade occurred in September 2015 at
Murphy USA. The officer stated that Dade's behavior was
similar to that in January 2015 and that she was later
arrested for aggravated assault.
records reflect that Dade was involuntarily admitted for
psychiatric care in June 2015 following an incident at a
bank. The report reflects that Dade was found "laughing
uncontrollably and grossly disorganized." At the time,
she believed that she was Kim Kardashian.
who remained incarcerated on the aggravated-assault charge,
also testified. She denied the street encounter described by
Samuel; she denied the January and June 2015 incidents that
led to her two hospital admissions; she denied assaulting
anyone in September 2015; she denied talking in gibberish;
she denied the need for medication and counseling; she said
she did not know why DHS had taken custody of her son; and
she did not remember why she received Social Security
disability benefits. She ...