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Duncan v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

April 26, 2017

ANGEL SIMS DUNCAN APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66JV-14-714] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE

          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 children.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         The Sebastian County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights of appellant Angel Sims Duncan to her two children, N.D. (DOB: 9-23-2014) and Z.D. (DOB: 12-23-2015). Duncan challenges the statutory grounds supporting termination and the trial court's best-interest finding. We affirm.

         I. Procedural History

         On December 17, 2014, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect as to N.D. In an affidavit attached to the petition, family service worker Courtnee Boerjan attested that a protective-services case had been opened when N.D. tested positive for THC at the time of her birth. Duncan initially tested positive for only THC, [1] but subsequent tests were positive for other illicit drugs, including amphetamines, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine (PCP). An ex parte order for emergency custody was entered, and the trial court later found that probable cause existed for issuance of the emergency order.

         In an adjudication order entered April 24, 2015, the trial court found that N.D. was dependent-neglected due to Duncan's drug abuse. The goal was reunification, and the trial court ordered Duncan to comply with several conditions, including recommended drug treatment. In a review order dated September 11, 2015, the trial court found that Duncan was in her third drug-treatment program and had only four negative drug screens since the case was opened. The trial court also noted that Duncan was pregnant and due to give birth in December 2015.

         When Z.D. was born, DHS took a seventy-two-hour hold on him. On December 29, 2015, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect as to Z.D. In an affidavit attached to the petition, family service worker Natosha Mantooth attested that Duncan had tested positive for methamphetamine while in residential treatment on September 23, 2015, and that Duncan reported that she had relapsed in November 2015 while pregnant by taking Xanax not prescribed to her. An ex parte emergency custody order was entered. The trial court subsequently found probable cause for issuance of the order.

         On January 7, 2016, the trial court entered a permanency-planning order pertaining to N.D. The trial court found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide family services to achieve the goal of reunification. The trial court noted that Duncan had complied with several case-plan goals and court orders. She was further ordered, among other things, to submit to random drug screens and hair-follicle tests, complete drug treatment, and attend Narcotics/Alcoholics Anonymous (NA/AA) meetings at least twice per week.

         On April 7, 2016, Z.D. was adjudicated dependent-neglected due to Duncan's stipulation of parental unfitness and inadequate supervision due to her substance-abuse issues. A fifteen-month review order was entered the same day indicating that Duncan had only partially complied with the case plan. She was again ordered to complete a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow the recommendations.

         DHS filed a petition for termination of parental rights on May 23, 2016, alleging grounds under Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Supp. 2015), including (i)(a) (twelvemonth/failure to remedy), (ii)(a) (failure to provide significant material support), (vii)(a) (other subsequent factors or issues), and (ix) (a)(3) (aggravated circumstances). A hearing on DHS's petition was held July 8, 2016.

         II. Termi ...


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