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Fuls v. Arkansas Department of Human Services and Minor Children

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

January 25, 2017

STEPHEN PAUL FULS APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE BOONE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 05JV-13-93] HONORABLE JOHNNY R. PUTMAN, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

          Leah Lanford, Ark. Pub. Defender Comm'n, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

          WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

         Appellant appeals from the circuit court's termination of his parental rights to D.F.1, born 8/3/2003; D.F.2 born 12/23/2005; and M.F., born 8/20/2007. His sole argument on appeal is that there was insufficient evidence to support termination of his parental rights since the same would terminate the rights of his father to the juveniles and all parties agreed that a continued relationship between the paternal grandfather and the juveniles was in their best interest. We affirm.

         The juveniles were removed from their mother's custody on September 1, 2013, and subsequently adjudicated dependent-neglected because of their mother's actions in the circuit court's December 11, 2013 adjudication order.[1] The goal of the case was "reunification with the mother or the legal father." The order noted the existence of an order of protection for the mother and the juveniles against appellant. Between the juveniles' removal from their mother's custody and their subsequent adjudication as dependent-neglected, the circuit court entered an agreed order placing temporary legal custody of the juveniles with their paternal grandparents, Alvin and Lorna Fuls, on October 23, 2013. Alvin and Lorna were prohibited therein from allowing appellant to have contact with the juveniles unless supervised by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS).

         The circuit court entered a January 14, 2014 review order changing the goal of the case plan to reunification with appellant only, finding that he had complied with the case plan and court orders and noting that appellant was "working with his attorney to get [his] order of protection lifted or modified." Appellant's visitation was "expanded to allow more contact with [appellant] to expand visit[s] to include unsupervised [visitation] and trial placement." A formal order amending the order of protection against appellant to allow contact between him and the juveniles was entered on February 27, 2014.[2]Appellant was again found to be in compliance in the circuit court's April 7, 2014 review order. The goal of the case plan was changed to placement in appellant's permanent custody. In an order entered on June 12, 2014, the circuit court placed temporary legal custody of the juveniles with appellant.

         In its July 3, 2014 review order, the circuit court found that appellant had substantially complied with the case plan and court orders, but noted his refusal to cooperate with submitting to random drug screens and his June 5, 2014 positive drug test for THC. Despite the positive drug test, the goal of the case plan continued to be placement in appellant's permanent custody.

         In its September 18, 2014 permanency-planning order, the goal of the case plan was authorization of a plan to place custody of the juveniles with appellant, given his substantial compliance with the case plan and court orders.[3] However, following a December 9, 2014 hearing, in its December 19, 2014 fifteen-month review order, the circuit court found that appellant had not complied with the case plan and court orders, specifically noting his "discharge from [Health Recovery of Arkansas] for refusing to submit to drug screens and for missing appointments" as well as his failure to complete anger management or attend counseling, despite DHS having made several referrals. It admonished appellant that "he cannot get the Court to close this case by ignoring the orders of the Court" and further ordered that the juveniles would be returned to foster care if appellant did not begin complying with the case plan and court orders. The goal of the case plan was to maintain the juveniles in appellant's home; however, the circuit court scheduled a termination of parental rights hearing for April 14, 2015.

         Following a hearing on December 15, 2014, the circuit court entered an order of emergency change of custody of the juveniles from appellant to DHS on December 16, 2014. Appellant had tested positive for "METH and AMP" at the December 9, 2014 hearing.

          The circuit court entered an order on December 31, 2014, finding that probable cause existed for the juveniles' December 9, 2014 removal and entered an order adjudicating the juveniles' dependent-neglected, as stipulated to by the parties, on January 22, 2015. The adjudication order stated that temporary legal custody of the juveniles should continue with Alvin and Lorna, with whom the juveniles had been living since December 17, 2014. The goal of the case continued as reunification. Appellant's visitation with the juveniles was to be supervised by Alvin and Lorna. A termination of parental rights hearing was set for April 17, 2015.

         The circuit court then entered an order of emergency change of custody from Alvin and Lorna to DHS on February 6, 2015, on account of Alvin and Lorna's inability to care for the juveniles due to financial strain and statements made by appellant of his "possible intentions of leaving the state" with the juveniles. The circuit court entered a probable cause and adjudication order finding probable cause for the juveniles' removal from Alvin and Lorna's custody on February 11, 2015.

         In its March 20, 2015 review order, the circuit court stated that appellant had not complied with the case plan and court orders, specifically noting that he "did not complete his anger management counseling, he [had] not made himself available to his case worker, had not made himself available to random drug screens, he [had] not obtained a drug assessment, and he [had] not kept all appointments regarding the case." It specifically stated that "In the event [appellant failed] to comply with those conditions or the terms of ...


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