FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, EIGHTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-15-233] HONORABLE WILEY BRANTON, 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.
Selsor and Edward Troutman appeal the August 25, 2016
termination of their parental rights to their two minor
children, five-year-old K.S. and one-year-old L.T.,
arguing that termination was not in the
children's best interest. We affirm.
Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved
with this family on February 5, 2015, when L.T. was born with
drugs in her system. Both Lydia and Edward tested positive
for methamphetamine. K.S. was living with a neighbor in
unsafe housing. The five-year-old had poor hygiene and tested
positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines subsequent to
his removal. DHS exercised an emergency hold, stating
concerns of drug use, lack of employment, and lack of stable
parents stipulated to probable cause on February 19, 2015,
and to findings of dependency-neglect on March 31, 2015. In
addition to the dependency-neglect finding, the court also
found that the children had been exposed to aggravated
circumstances as contemplated in the statute.
case proceeded through four permanency-planning hearings.
Lydia and Edward stayed clean throughout the case, complied
with their case plan, and had completed all the services
required by the November 3, 2015 hearing.
conclusion of the January 12, 2016 permanency-planning
hearing, the circuit court believed the parents had made
enough progress to increase visitation, commenting that if
everything went well it would even "entertain an agreed
order returning custody prior to the next hearing."
There were two weekend visitations before the attorney ad
litem filed a motion to stop them, alleging that the parents
were facing eviction, did not have electricity, had left a
puppy by itself at the home for four to five days, and that
the children came back smelling like cigarettes. DHS had
suspended visitation for the upcoming weekend but disagreed
that weekend visitation should be stopped altogether. It
asserted that the parents had made remarkable progress to
this point, the electricity was back on, the landlord was
willing to work with the parents, and the puppy had been
stranded over the weekend due to the snow storm. DHS
contended that this was just a setback, and that it did not
believe the children would be at risk if visitation
continued. The trial court granted the ad litem's motion.
trial court changed the goal of the case to termination of
parental rights at the May 3, 2016 permanency-planning
hearing, citing the parents' inability, despite 15 months
of services, to secure and maintain appropriate, stable
housing. The court also stated the parents had judgment
issues and that "there are no additional services that
will actually improve their lack of insight."
filed a petition to terminate Lydia and Edward's parental
rights, and a hearing was held on July 26, 2016. At trial,
the court heard testimony from K.S.'s occupational
therapist about K.S.'s developmental disability and how
important structure and routine were to managing it. The DHS
caseworker testified that the parents had adequate income and
had completed all the services, but the children could still
not return to their parents' custody because Lydia and
Edward did not have a home. She further discussed how she had
referred the parents to the housing authority, and they had
been approved but did not move in because they did not have a
$500 cash deposit available. She testified that DHS did not
offer cash assistance because she believed they did have the
deposit, and that they just did not want to pay the $200 per
month it would cost to rent it. Lydia testified that she
would have taken the apartment and that the $500 deposit was
all that was standing between her and her children at that
time. Psychological reports finding both parents to have
below-average cognitive abilities were also admitted.
order, the court found that the parents had never obtained
stable housing- they had lived in at least four different
cities since the case had been opened-and still did not have
a place of their own by the termination hearing. This was
especially troublesome to the court considering that K.S.
suffered developmental delays that required a consistent
routine and stability. It found the argument that the parents
just needed a little more time and deposit money
disingenuous. Even if the parents had requested cash
assistance, the court reasoned, it may not have ordered it
because the parents have adequate income, had a year and a
half to find stable housing, and a ...