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Greenhill v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

March 29, 2017



          Tina Bowers Lee, 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.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         Appellant Angela Greenhill appeals a Sebastian County Circuit Court order terminating her parental rights to her son, D.N. More specifically, she challenges both the trial court's findings of statutory grounds and its best-interest determination. We affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         In March 2015, Greenhill presented herself at Mercy Hospital for a suspected miscarriage. Greenhill brought D.N. to the hospital with her. As Greenhill and D.N. sat in the waiting room, Greenhill repeatedly fell asleep, resulting in D.N.'s being left unsupervised. Due to Greenhill's lack of supervision, another patient began taking care of the child. The other patient, who was there for a psychiatric evaluation, subsequently took D.N. with her to an exam room, making it necessary for security to retrieve him. Greenhill was asleep during the entire encounter. Eventually, Greenhill was admitted to a room where she continued to be inattentive to D.N. She subsequently tested positive for benzodiazepines and opiates. Based upon this, the hospital notified the Department of Human Services (DHS) that Greenhill was impaired and that there were concerns regarding her ability to adequately supervise D.N. Greenhill then attempted to leave the hospital without notifying hospital staff. She was found in the hospital parking lot attempting to leave. Once again, she was not adequately supervising D.N. and was not aware that he had almost walked into traffic. Greenhill was arrested on outstanding warrants and for child endangerment. Upon Greenhill's arrest, DHS took D.N. into protective care and filed a dependency-neglect action with the circuit court.

         On May 18, 2015, the court adjudicated D.N. dependent-neglected due to inadequate supervision. The court specifically found that Greenhill had been under the influence of prescription medication and had been impaired to the point that she had been unable to properly supervise D.N. The trial court set the goal of the case as reunification, ordered that DHS provide services to Greenhill, and directed that Greenhill comply with the orders of the court. Specifically, Greenhill was ordered to obtain and maintain stable and appropriate housing, income, and transportation; to complete parenting classes and visit regularly; to submit to random drug screens and hair-follicle testing at the request of DHS; to attend counseling until released and to take medication only as prescribed; and to complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment.

         The court monitored Greenhill's compliance at review hearings throughout the proceedings. Initially, Greenhill followed the case plan in the areas of employment, transportation, visitation, parenting classes, counseling, and drug-and-alcohol assessment. Additionally, she tested negative on her random drug screenings. In fact, Greenhill's compliance was sufficient to allow a trial placement to occur.

         While Greenhill initially followed the case plan, she eventually fell out of compliance, and the trial placement was terminated. At the February 1, 2016 permanency-planning hearing, the court noted several areas of noncompliance. Greenhill lost her job and was not upfront with caseworkers as to when or why she was terminated; she was late on her rent and was relying on her boyfriend for financial assistance; she had not been to her court-ordered drug counseling for several months; and she had been seen at the emergency room on several occasions seeking prescription drugs for unnecessary reasons.

         Subsequently, Greenhill's noncompliance continued its downward spiral. At a review hearing held on April 4, 2016, the trial court found that Greenhill had been involved in two domestic disputes-one involving her boyfriend; that she had failed to disclose ongoing domestic violence in her relationship with her boyfriend; that D.N. had witnessed the domestic violence between Greenhill and her boyfriend; and that D.N.'s behavior had deteriorated while he was in Greenhill's care. The court further found that Greenhill had tested positive for methamphetamine even though she denied the use. Based on this noncompliance, the trial court changed the goal of the plan to adoption and termination of parental rights.

         DHS filed a petition for the termination of parental rights on May 25, 2016. DHS alleged the following grounds for termination: (1) twelve months out of care with failure to remedy; (2) subsequent other factors warranted termination, and (3) aggravating circumstances (i.e., that there was little likelihood that services to the family would result in reunification). After a hearing on the petition to terminate, the court entered an order terminating Greenhill's parental rights on all three grounds alleged in the petition. The court further found that D.N. was adoptable and that potential harm existed if he were returned to Greenhill's custody; thus, termination was in D.N.'s best interest. Greenhill appeals this determination, challenging the grounds for termination as well as the court's best-interest findings.

         II. Stand ...

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