FROM THE OUACHITA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 52JV-15-28]
HONORABLE DAVID W. TALLEY, JR., JUDGE
Lanford, Ark. Pub. Defender Comm'n, for appellant.
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge
Larichia Canada (Larichia) appeals from the circuit
court's decision to award permanent custody of her three
minor children, H.A., B.C., and M.C., to their respective
grandparents and to close the case. On appeal, she argues
that the decision was clearly erroneous. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
February 13, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and
dependency-neglect in regard to Larichia's three
children. DHS first became involved with the family after
H.A. reported to the Camden Police Department that her
stepfather, Brett Canada, Sr. (Brett), had been using
methamphetamine and had been sexually abusive by masturbating
in front of her. Brett's two children, M.C. and B.C.,
along with H.A., were then all removed from the home. H.A.
was placed in the temporary custody of her maternal
grandmother, Marilyn Palmer, and M.C. and B.C. were placed in
the temporary custody of their paternal grandmother, Karen
circuit court ultimately adjudicated the juveniles
dependent-neglected, specifically finding that H.A. had been
sexually abused by her stepfather and that her mother had
failed to protect her. Larichia continued her relationship
with Brett and did not remove the children from exposure to
him even after she became aware that he had exposed himself
and masturbated in front of H.A. Larichia was ordered to
obtain and maintain suitable housing and adequate income, to
complete a list of services, including parenting classes,
random drug screens, a psychological evaluation, and
individual counseling, and to have no contact with Brett.
15, 2015, the circuit court held a review hearing. In its
order, the court indicated that Larichia did not yet have
adequate housing or income but that she had completed the
parenting classes. The order also noted that she had failed
to appear for her drug assessment. The court held a second
review hearing on October 7, 2015; by that time, Larichia had
undergone a psychological evaluation as ordered. On December
2, 2015, the court held a third review hearing, and the case
was set for a permanency-planning hearing on February 3,
March 2 hearing, Shannell Robbins, the supervisor for
Ouachita County DHS Division of Children and Family Services
(DCFS), and Bridgette Patterson, a former caseworker with
DCFS who had been assigned to the Canada case, both
testified. On May 20, 2016, the circuit court entered a
permanency-planning order finding that it was in the best
interest of B.C. and M.C. to grant permanent custody to Karen
Canada and that it was in the best interest of H.A. to grant
permanent custody to Marilyn Palmer.
May 20 order, the circuit court found that DHS had made
reasonable efforts and that Larichia had not complied with
the case plan and court orders. The court specifically found
that Larichia's lack of compliance was due to her contact
with Brett, her failure to follow court orders, lack of
evidence showing she had a suitable home, her attempt to
alter a drug screen in November 2015, her failure to comply
with counseling, and the lack of communication between DHS
and her for the past thirty days. The court specifically
noted that it "cannot see Laricha [sic] Canada changing
her pattern of non-compliance." The court awarded
Larichia supervised visitation with her three children, and
it awarded Brett supervised visitation with his sons, M.C.
and B.C. Brett was ordered to have no contact with H.A., and
the case was closed.
burden of proof in dependency-neglect proceedings, including
permanency-planning hearings, is by a preponderance of the
evidence. Anderson v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2011 Ark.App. 522, 385 S.W.3d 367 (citing Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-325(h)(2)(B)). The standard of review
is de novo, but we, giving due deference to the trial
court's superior position to observe the parties and
judge the credibility of the witnesses, will not reverse the
trial court's ruling in a dependency-neglect case unless
the ruling was clearly erroneous or clearly against the
preponderance of the evidence. Churchill v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2012 Ark.App. 530, 423 S.W.3d
637. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is
evidence to support it, the reviewing court is left with a
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.
Id. Deference to the trial court is even greater in
cases involving child custody, as a heavier burden is placed
on the circuit judge to utilize to the fullest extent his or
her powers of perception in evaluating the witnesses, their
testimony, and the best interest of the children.
Culclager-Haynes v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
2010 Ark.App. 518.
permanency-planning hearing, DHS employees testified that
Larichia had failed to maintain contact with them since the
last court date and had not responded to the missed-visits
notes. She had not been drug screened, and because of the
loss of contact, DHS could not confirm that she was employed.
Larichia did not ...