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Campbell v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 8, 2017

JESSICA CAMPBELL APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66JV-15-134] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED; MOTION GRANTED

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

         Appellant Jessica Campbell appeals from the termination of her parental rights to her eight-year-old son, A.F.[1] Jessica's counsel has filed a no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw, stating that this appeal is without merit and that she should be relieved of counsel. We affirm and grant appellant's counsel's motion to be relieved.

         In compliance with Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i), Jessica's counsel has examined the record for adverse rulings, explaining why each adverse ruling would not support a meritorious ground for reversal. Jessica's counsel has accurately asserted that the only adverse ruling was the termination itself. A copy of Jessica's counsel's brief and motion to withdraw were mailed to Jessica, along with information advising her of her right to file pro se points within thirty days. Jessica failed to file her pro se points by the deadline specified in our rules; therefore, her pro se points are untimely and not properly before us for review. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(3); Everett v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 541___ S.W.3d___.

         We 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).

         On March 4, 2015, appellee Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody of A.F. Attached to the petition was an affidavit of a DHS caseworker stating that A.F. had been living with Jessica and that A.F.'s father was in prison. DHS had taken an emergency hold of A.F. due to Jessica's arrest for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to ingest methamphetamine, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, and second-degree child endangerment. There had been drug use in the home and prior controlled buys of methamphetamine. When the police executed the search warrant, A.F. was on the couch and Jessica was hiding in a closet. After being arrested, Jessica tested positive for methamphetamine. On the same day the petition was filed, the trial court entered an ex parte order for emergency DHS custody. A probable-cause order was subsequently entered on March 12, 2015.

         On April 24, 2015, the trial court entered an adjudication order finding A.F. to be dependent-neglected and setting the case goal as reunification. The parties stipulated to dependency-neglect based on Jessica's neglect and parental unfitness. The adjudication order stated that Jessica had admitted using methamphetamine while serving as the child's sole caregiver, and that Jessica's acts and omissions placed the child at a substantial risk of serious harm. Jessica was ordered to maintain stable housing, income, and transportation, complete parenting classes, complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment and all recommended treatments, resolve her criminal issues, submit to drug tests, and visit the child regularly.

         A review order was entered on September 17, 2015, wherein the trial court found that Jessica was in only partial compliance with the case plan and had recently tested positive for methamphetamine. On March 14, 2016, the trial court entered a permanency-planning order changing the case goal to termination of parental rights and adoption. In the permanency-planning order, the trial court found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide family services to achieve the previous goal of reunification and had complied with the case plan and orders of the court. The trial court found that Jessica had completed parenting classes, but had no stable or appropriate housing, no income, and no reliable transportation. The trial court further found that Jessica had failed to complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment and had canceled numerous visits due to inadequate transportation.

         DHS filed a petition to terminate Jessica's parental rights on March 14, 2016. The termination hearing was held on June 10, 2016.

         On July 5, 2016, the trial court entered an order terminating Jessica's parental rights. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights was in A.F.'s best interest, and the court specifically considered the likelihood of adoption, as well as the potential harm of returning the child to the custody of his mother as required by Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-341(b)(3)(A). The ...


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