SAMANTHA NICOLE FORD, ANTHONY P. GUERRA, AND CHRISTOPHER D. FORDAPPELLANTS
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDRENAPPELLEES
FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-15-623] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant
Standridge, for appellant Christopher Ford.
Lightle, Raney, Streit & Streit, LLP, by: Jonathan R.
Streit, for appellant Anthony Guerra.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.
Samantha Ford, Christopher Ford, and Anthony Guerra appeal
separately from the termination of their parental rights.
Samantha's parental rights were terminated with respect
to her four children, M.W., age seven, N.W., age six, B.W.,
age three, and N.F., age one. Christopher is married to
Samantha, and his parental rights were terminated as to his
child, N.F. Anthony's parental rights were terminated as
to his child, N.W. The father of M.W. also had his parental
rights terminated, and the trial court found that B.W.'s
putative father's parental rights had never attached.
Neither M.W.'s father nor B.W.'s putative father has
to 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), Samantha's counsel
and Christopher's counsel have each filed a no-merit
appeal and a motion to withdraw, stating that there is no
issue of arguable merit to advance on appeal and that they
should be relieved of counsel. Anthony's counsel has
filed a merit brief, arguing that the trial court erred in
finding that DHS provided meaningful services to him, and
also erred in finding that no appropriate relative had come
forward for placement of N.W. We affirm all three appeals,
and we grant Samantha's and Christopher's
counsels' motions to be relieved.
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).
proceedings began on May 4, 2015, when DHS filed a petition
for ex parte emergency custody of all four children. Attached
to the petition was an affidavit of a family-service worker
stating that DHS had taken an emergency hold of Samantha and
Christopher's newborn son, N.F., because Samantha tested
positive for methamphetamine on the day she gave birth.
Christopher also tested positive for methamphetamine, and
subsequent testing confirmed that the baby's meconium was
positive for methamphetamine. The affidavit stated that both
parents were dishonest about their use of illegal drugs and
that they lacked employment or a stable residence. Based on
these allegations, the trial court entered an ex parte order
for emergency custody on the same day the petition was filed.
The other three children had been in Samantha and
Christopher's custody, and after they were removed from
the home one of the children, N.W., tested positive for
methamphetamine on a hair test.
6, 2015, the trial court entered a probable-cause order. In
that order, the trial court gave Samantha and each of the
fathers visitation with their children contingent upon
negative drug screens. Each of the parents were ordered to
take parenting classes, attend counseling, submit to a
psychological evaluation and to a drug-and-alcohol
assessment, and maintain stable housing and employment.
trial court entered an adjudication order on July 1, 2015.
The children were found to be dependent-neglected based on
Samantha and Christopher's stipulation to neglect and
parental unfitness, and specifically drug use by the parents.
The adjudication order noted that, since the case began,
Samantha, Christopher, and Anthony had all tested positive
for methamphetamine and other illegal drugs on multiple
October 26, 2015, the trial court entered a review order
finding that Samantha and Christopher had continued to test
positive for methamphetamine, and that Anthony had not made
himself available for drug screens. The trial court also
found that the parents were only minimally compliant with the
case plan. On April 13, 2016, the trial court entered a
permanency-planning order finding that none of the parents