FROM THE ST. FRANCIS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 62JV-16-42]
HONORABLE ANN B. HUDSON, JUDGE
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, County Legal Operations, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.
Guy Marie Trotty appeals from an order that adjudicated two
minor girls, N.T., born on 07/24/2011, and A.B., born on
05/26/2010, dependent-neglected. On appeal, Ms. Trotty argues
that there was insufficient evidence to support the
adjudication and that the trial court's findings were
based on speculation. We affirm.
dependent-neglected juvenile is one who is at substantial
risk of serious harm as a result of acts or omissions to the
juvenile, sibling, or another juvenile, including sexual
exploitation or neglect. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-303(18)(A)(iv) & (v) (Repl. 2015). The burden of
proof in dependency-neglect adjudications is a preponderance
of the evidence. Scott v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2015 Ark.App. 431. On appeal, we review the
trial court's findings de novo, giving due regard to the
court's opportunity to judge the credibility of
witnesses. Id. When the sufficiency of the evidence
is challenged on appeal, we will not reverse the trial
court's findings unless they are clearly erroneous.
Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although
there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the
entire evidence is left with a definite and firm conviction
that a mistake has been made. Id.
case began on March 21, 2016, when appellee Arkansas
Department of Human Services (DHS) took an emergency hold of
N.T. and A.B. On March 23, 2016, DHS filed a petition for
emergency custody of the children. Attached to the petition
was an affidavit of a DHS family-service worker stating that
someone had called the child-abuse hotline to report that the
girls had been left home alone, that A.B. had been found
outside in the middle of the night when adults were in the
house asleep, and that there was a concern about human
trafficking. Upon being investigated, Guy Trotty told the
family-service worker that she was caring for the two
children. Ms. Trotty stated that her daughter, Kelsey Trotty,
and Kelsey's boyfriend were also living in the home. Ms.
Trotty stated that she is the paternal grandmother of N.T.,
whom she had custody of since N.T. was three days old, and
that she had also taken custody of N.T.'s half-sister,
A.B. Ms. Trotty stated that she took custody of the children
when their mother was incarcerated. The mother and the two
fathers of the children were somewhere in Texas. Ms. Trotty
provided the family-service worker with a guardianship order
from Texas with regard to N.T. only. Ms. Trotty did not have
the birth, immunization, or school records of either child,
and the family-service worker was presented with no
documentation to identify who the children were. In addition,
it was noted that Ms. Trotty had a prior history with DHS,
which included the removal of her two daughters from her
custody in 2008.
same day that DHS filed its petition, the trial court entered
an ex parte order for emergency DHS custody, finding that
removal of the children from Ms. Trotty's custody was in
the children's best interest and was necessary to protect
their health and safety. A probable-cause order was
subsequently entered on April 4, 2016.
adjudication hearing was held, wherein Ms. Trotty testified
that both girls had been placed in her custody by
child-protective services in Texas after a
protective-services case was opened against their mother. Ms.
Trotty indicated that she was able to get a conservatorship
over N.T. because N.T. is her son's daughter, but that
she was unable to do the same for A.B. Ms. Trotty did not
have birth certificates for the children. Ms. Trotty
acknowledged that, as a result of not having records on A.B.,
she had not enrolled her in school. As a result, A.B. missed
what was to be her first year in school.
Trotty was also asked about the previous dependency-neglect
case involving her two daughters in 2008. Ms. Trotty admitted
that, in those proceedings, both daughters were removed from
her custody and she did not get them back. Ms. Trotty stated
"that was probably totally all my fault, " but that
she was young and scared and moved back to Texas after her
daughters were removed. She stated that her daughters were
taken into foster care when they were about fourteen, and
remained there until they turned eighteen. Ms. Trotty stated
that "pictures" was the reason her daughters were
removed from her, but she denied leasing her children out to
Isom, a foster-care supervisor, testified about the 2008
dependency-neglect case involving Ms. Trotty's daughters.
According to Ms. Isom, there had been some issues regarding
pictures of the daughters posted on the Internet, and the
girls were being allowed to have sex with men for money. Ms.
Isom testified that there was a true finding against Ms.
Trotty for prostituting her children.
Hardin, a caseworker assigned to this case, testified that
she had observed visits between Ms. Trotty and the children,
and that the visits were appropriate. Ms. Hardin recommended
that Ms. Trotty undergo parenting classes, counseling, and a
psychological evaluation. Ms. Hardin further recommended that