FROM THE VAN BUREN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 71JV-15-10]
HONORABLE TROY B. BRASWELL, JR., JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge.
Meredith appeals the termination of her parental rights to
her child, J.M. She argues that
the termination was not in her child's best interest. We
affirm the circuit court's decision.
April 2015, the Van Buren County Circuit Court adjudicated
J.M. dependent neglected by the parties' stipulation.
Five-month-old J.M. remained in foster care, and the case
goal remained reunification with Terry. The circuit court
held a permanency-planning hearing in February 2016 and found
that the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) had
offered reunification services throughout the case. Those
services included: foster home, board payments, relative home
study, home visits, supervised visitation, transportation,
referral for counseling, drug-and-alcohol assessment, drug
treatment, psychological evaluation, housing assistance,
NA/AA referral, parenting classes, paternity testing, case
management, medical services, dental services, and foster
home visits. The court changed the case-plan goal to adoption
after finding that Terry was speaking "very quickly and
incoherently" when she testified during the
permanency-planning hearing, and a drug test given at court
that day was positive for amphetamines, methamphetamine, and
MDMA. Terry had failed to comply with the court's
previous orders to attend inpatient drug rehabilitation, to
maintain contact with DHS, and to complete parenting classes.
Terry also attended only nine visits with J.M. in the eleven
months that the case had been opened. In March 2016 DHS filed
a petition to terminate Terry's parental rights.
court held a hearing on the petition in June 2016, during
which DHS introduced the prior orders entered in the case,
two case plans, and Terry's drug screens. The evidence
showed that, while Terry had some periods of sobriety, there
were many periods where she was not. Terry testified that
part of the delay in entering and completing drug
rehabilitation was finding an appropriate facility that could
treat both the substance abuse and her mental health.
Following the permanency-planning hearing, Terry completed a
drug-rehabilitation program and had achieved over sixty days
of sobriety when the termination hearing was held. She also
began consistently visiting J.M. after her release from the
inpatient program. Terry started working at Taco Bell about
three weeks before the termination hearing, received
Social-Security disability benefits, had a home, and had a
fiancé who assisted her with bills.
Jennifer Carroll testified that Terry had been arrested and
charged with drug-related offenses and had tested positive
for methamphetamine throughout the case. In Carroll's
opinion, there was little likelihood that giving Terry three
more months would result in a successful reunification with
J.M. She testified that Terry had not maintained stable or
appropriate housing and that Terry had not demonstrated an
improved ability to parent or keep J.M. safe. Carroll said
that J.M.'s foster parents would like to adopt him, that
J.M. does not have any physical or mental deficiencies
preventing him from being adopted, and that he was in an
foster parent testified that J.M. was "absolutely"
part of the family and that he was "committed" to
circuit court terminated Terry's parental rights to J.M.
in August 2016. Terry has appealed that order.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Cheney v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2012
Ark.App. 209, 396 S.W.3d 272. But we will not reverse the
circuit court's ruling unless its findings are clearly
erroneous. Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when,
although there is evidence to support it, we are left with a
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.
Id. In determining whether a finding is clearly