FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-15-620] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE.
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
appellant Jason Jones.
Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R.
Streit, for appellant Amanda Self.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.
Jones and Amanda Self appeal a Pulaski County Circuit Court
order terminating their parental rights to their son, G.J.
Jones challenges both the trial court's findings of
statutory grounds and its best-interest determination, while
Self challenges only the statutory grounds for termination.
Arkansas Department of Human Services (the Department)
initiated contact with Jones and Self in March 2015, due to a
report of inadequate supervision and substance misuse. The
Department pursued efforts to keep G.J. in the home by means
of a safety plan. Jones and Self agreed to remain drug free
and that G.J. would be supervised by a sober adult at all
times. In April 2015, both Jones and Self tested positive for
illegal substances, and the Department opened a
protective-services case. Eventually, G.J. was brought into
care on May 1, 2015, due in part to the continued drug usage
by the parents and the Self's failure to attend AA/NA
meetings. The court adjudicated G.J. dependent-neglected on
July 1, 2015, based on a stipulation of neglect and parental
unfitness caused by the parents' drug use. The court
continued custody in the Department and listed the goal of
the case as reunification with a concurrent goal of adoption.
court conducted a review hearing in October 2015, where it
changed the goal of the case to adoption with the concurrent
goal of reunification. The court acknowledged that the
initial goal was reunification and found that the Department
had made reasonable efforts to provide services and to
achieve that goal. Despite the Department's provision of
services, the court noted that the parties were halfway
through the case, and their issues were no closer to being
resolved. The court stated that it wanted to see that the
parents had stable housing and employment and that their
medical issues were being addressed. The court found that
neither Jones nor Self was in compliance with the case plan
and that they were just playing games. The court noted that
both parents needed to overcome their drug habits and that
prescribed medications could affect their ability to parent
as much as illegal substances could. Specifically, the court
stated that Jones needed to bring proof of what medication he
was on, why he needed it, and whether his conditions,
diagnoses, and prognoses were conducive to being able to
raise a child. The court indicated it suspected Jones was
just trading one addiction for another. The court concluded
that there was no evidence that Jones or Self had shown
progress or any benefit from the services they had received;
instead, they were just going through the motions. As a
result, the court authorized the Department to file a
termination petition in the case.
Department filed a petition to terminate parental rights on
March 16, 2016-less than one year from the date of removal.
As to both parents, the Department alleged the following
grounds for termination: (1) subsequent other factors
warranted termination and (2) aggravating circumstances (i.e.
that there was little likelihood that services to the family
would result in reunification). As to Self, the Department
cited her suspected continued drug use, her lack of
compliance with the court's orders and case plan, her
lack of visitation with the child, her lack of stable
housing, her failure to keep the Department informed of her
location, and her failure to follow through with referred
services as the basis for its subsequent-other-factors
allegation. As to Jones, the Department listed the following
subsequent factors: his failure to follow through with
counseling, his continued drug usage, and his failure to
visit the child. As to the aggravated-circumstances ground,
the Department alleged that neither Jones nor Self had
availed themselves of the services most likely to result in
successful reunification and had failed to visit or provide
any material or emotional support to the child.
combined permanency-planning and termination hearing was held
on April 18, 2016. After hearing the testimony and reviewing
all the evidence presented, the trial court entered an order
terminating the parental rights of both Jones and Self. The
court found that the Department had proved as to both parents
that subsequent other factors existed to support termination,
as well as the aggravated-circumstances ground. The court
further found that termination was in the best interest of
the child; that he was adoptable; and that he would be
subject to potential harm if returned to the custody of his
parents. Both Jones and Self appeal from this order
terminating their parental rights.