FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, OSCEOLA DISTRICT
[NO. JV-2014-45] HONORABLE RALPH WILSON, JR., JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee. Chrestman
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Rodgers appeals the order of the Mississippi County Circuit
Court that terminated her parental rights to her adopted
child, C.R. Rodgers challenges the statutory grounds for
termination. We affirm.
October 2014, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)
filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect
of nine-year-old C.R. The accompanying affidavit explained
that on October 28, a call to the child-abuse hotline
reported that C.R. refused to get on the school bus to go
home because he was scared. The caller said that C.R. had
been whipped at the bus stop and had approximately twenty
bruises on his arms, legs, and back that were in the process
of healing. The police investigated, and Rodgers was arrested
for second-degree domestic battery.
circuit court granted the petition for emergency custody and
on November 5 found probable cause to continue DHS's
custody of C.R. Rodgers was ordered to complete parenting
classes, watch "The Clock is Ticking" video,
maintain stable housing, obtain and maintain stable
employment and/or income, and attend anger-management
classes. On November 20, C.R. was adjudicated
dependent-neglected due to cuts/welts and bruises on his
arms, legs, and back. In addition to the above requirements,
Rodgers was ordered to comply with a no-contact order issued
in her criminal case and to submit a 2011 psychological
evaluation to her attorney or her DHS caseworker.
circuit court reviewed the case in February 2015 and found
that Rodgers had stable income and housing but still needed
to complete parenting classes and watch "The Clock is
Ticking" video. Another review order in August 2015
noted that Rodgers had completed parenting and
anger-management classes and had watched the required video.
That order found that the case plan was moving toward an
appropriate permanency plan and that the goal of the case
would continue to be reunification with Rodgers.
October 2015, however, the circuit court held a
permanency-planning hearing and changed the goal of the case
to termination of parental rights and adoption. In its order,
the court found that C.R. had been out of his mother's
home for twelve months, had been diagnosed with posttraumatic
stress disorder, and "continue[d] to have panic attacks
and recurrent nightmares in regards to being placed back with
his mother." On October 29, DHS and C.R.'s attorney
ad litem filed a joint petition for termination of parental
rights alleging that (1) C.R. had been "chronically
abused" and "subjected to extreme and repeated
cruelty in the form of both mental and physical abuse, "
and (2) the conditions that resulted in C.R.'s being
removed had not been remedied by Rodgers despite a meaningful
effort by DHS to remedy those conditions.
court held a termination hearing on 26 February 2016. Chelsea
Fife, a therapist with Families, Inc., testified that C.R.
had been her client since June 2015. Fife explained that C.R.
had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, that
she helped him with coping skills and identifying his
feelings, and that his therapy was going well. Fife said that
when C.R. is asked about Rodgers, he shakes and cries and
"will go from smiling and being a happy child to being
completely fearful." C.R. told Fife that he did not wish
to return to Rodgers's home and that he was "scared
to go back." Fife recommended that C.R. not be returned
to Rodgers's custody. She also noted that C.R. was
"very comfortable" with his foster parents.
Watson, the DHS caseworker assigned to the case, testified
that he had regular contact with Rodgers throughout the case
and that she had completed all services required of her. He
said that he last spoke with Rodgers six weeks previously
about C.R.'s coming home, and Rodgers stated that C.R.
"would have to admit to what he had done before she
would let him come back home." Rodgers explained to
Watson that C.R. would get up in the middle of the night and
steal food out of the refrigerator and that "[h]e needed
to admit to what he had done." Watson testified that
Rodgers had not visited C.R. because of the no-contact order
and that Rodgers was scheduled to go to court on her criminal
charges in April. Finally, Watson said that C.R. was doing
well at school and was "usually happy . . . like a
normal kid" around his foster parents.
Ware, a DHS supervisor, testified that she was familiar with
this case and had spoken with Rodgers about the progression
of the case. Ware stated that Rodgers admitted spanking C.R.
with a belt. Rodgers also told Ware that C.R. could come home
and that she would "put the belt away, " but
"he needs to remember that the belt can always come back
out." Ware was also concerned with Rodgers's
statement to her that C.R. had a "demon possessed
Dunegan, C.R.'s foster dad, testified that C.R. was
placed with his family in October 2014 and that he wished to
adopt C.R. Tyler stated that C.R. has minor behavioral
problems, "typical ten-year-old boy behavior; but
nothing out of the ordinary." Tyler explained that when
he first arrived, C.R. had frequent nightmares and did not
sleep well, but that has improved. Tyler said that he and his
wife Carolyn take C.R. to the Calvary Baptist Church in
Osceola and that C.R. "loves the church family." He
also stated that C.R. likes to play sports and is very
social. He described C.R. as "happy" and "full
of joy." Tyler also explained that he and his wife now
have two other ...