FROM THE CONWAY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 15JV-15-21]
HONORABLE TERRY SULLIVAN, JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant Latisha Bane.
Lanford, Ark. Pub. Defender Comm'n, for appellant Joseph
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee. Chrestman Group,
PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge
Latisha Bane and appellant Joseph Bane appeal separately from
the termination of their parental rights to their
fourteen-year-old daughter N.B., twelve-year-old son A.B.1,
and nine-year-old daughter A.B.2. On appeal, Latisha argues
that she received improper service of process, and further
argues that the case should not have gone forward without a
determination of whether an attorney ad litem should have
been appointed for her. Latisha also challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence to support the termination of her
parental rights. Joseph's counsel has filed a no-merit
appeal and a motion to withdraw, stating that there is no
issue of arguable merit to advance on appeal and that she
should be relieved of counsel. We affirm both appeals, and we
grant Joseph's counsel's motion to be relieved.
review termination of parental rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (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); Mitchell v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d
851. 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, 839 S.W.2d 196 (1992). The
appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). 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. Yarborough v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 96 Ark.App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626 (2006).
and Joseph lived with their three children in a trailer in
Hattiesville, Arkansas. In 2011, Latisha suffered a stroke,
which rendered her unable to care for herself. Shortly
thereafter, Joseph was appointed as Latisha's permanent
guardian. The order appointing Joseph as guardian stated that
the guardianship was necessary due to Latisha's lack of
capacity to make decisions for her health or safety, and that
Latisha's impairments were not expected to improve. After
his appointment as guardian, Joseph became the caretaker of
both Latisha and the children.
proceedings began on March 3, 2015, when appellee Arkansas
Department of Human Services (DHS) exercised an emergency
hold on all three children. According to a caseworker's
affidavit, Joseph had been arrested on misdemeanor warrants
and, as a result of Latisha's medical condition, she was
unable to care for the children. Police investigators
informed the caseworker that Joseph had admitted that he
supplied alcohol to his oldest daughter, N.B., who was then
twelve years old, as well as to a twenty-year-old woman.
Joseph had further acknowledged to police that he witnessed a
sexual assault by the woman on his daughter N.B., but that he
had failed to report the incident or cooperate in the
investigation. The police investigator stated that Joseph
would be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a
minor and endangering the welfare of a minor, and that it was
uncertain how long Joseph would remain in jail. Based on
these allegations DHS filed a motion for emergency custody of
all three children, and on March 6, 2015, the trial court
entered an ex parte order for emergency custody finding that
immediate removal of the children was necessary to protect
their health and safety.
22, 2015, the trial court entered an order adjudicating the
children dependent-neglected. The adjudication was based on
the parents' stipulation of neglect based on Joseph's
failure to take reasonable action to protect his
twelve-year-old daughter from sexual abuse or to report the
abuse after he observed it. At the time of the adjudication
the parents had not participated in the case despite numerous
attempts by a caseworker to contact the parents and develop a
case plan. The goal of the case was reunification. The trial
court ordered DHS to offer services toward reunification and
ordered the parents to cooperate with DHS and comply with the
review order was entered on September 30, 2015, and the goal
of the case continued to be reunification. Trina Yerby
appeared at the review hearing as counsel for Latisha and
Joseph. In the review order, the trial court found that DHS
had made reasonable efforts to provide family services
including parenting classes, drug-and-alcohol assessments,
psychological evaluations, home visits, counseling,
transportation, and visitation with the children. The trial
court found that Latisha had minimally complied with the case
plan, in part due to her disability. The trial court also
found that Joseph had minimally complied with the case plan,
stating that he lived in a structurally unsound and filthy
home, was unemployed, was abusing pain medication, had tested
positive for opiates, and had stopped attending parenting
classes. The trial court noted that the parents had visited
the children only five times since the children were taken
into DHS custody.
review order was entered on January 7, 2016, at which time
the case goal was changed to termination of parental rights
and adoption. Trina Yerby appeared at the hearing as counsel
for the parents. In that order, the trial court again found
that both parents had minimally complied with the case plan.
The trial court found that Joseph had not completed parenting
classes, was discharged from counseling for failure to
participate, and had tested positive for benzodiazepines
without a prescription. The trial court stated that Joseph
had made no progress at all on cleaning or repairing the
home, that there were huge holes in the floor, and that there
were multiple animals living there causing feces and urine to
accumulate and strong odors to permeate the trailer. The
trial court noted that the parents had attended only eight
visits with the children since the case had begun.
filed a petition to terminate both parents' parental
rights on March 1, 2016. The termination hearing was held on
May 5, 2016. Trina Yerby appeared at ...