FROM THE LONOKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 43JV-15-76]
HONORABLE BARBARA ELMORE, 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 child.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge
Charlisha Robinson appeals a Lonoke County Circuit Court
order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, N.B.
Robinson does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence
regarding statutory grounds to support terminating her
parental rights. She only challenges the circuit court's
best-interest determination, arguing that the circuit court
clearly erred in concluding that termination of her parental
rights was in N.B.'s best interest. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
April 16, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) received a call from an investigator from the Crimes
Against Children Division (CACD) of the Arkansas State
Police. CACD was investigating the death of Robinson's
infant daughter, N.R., who died after an overnight stay at
Robinson's cousin's house. A month prior to
N.R.'s death, DHS had opened a case with Robinson after
the child tested positive for cocaine at birth. As Robinson
asserts in her brief, the cause of N.R.'s death was
unknown and she was never charged with anything relating to
death, combined with the fact that Robinson tested positive
for THC on April 16, 2015, led DHS to exercise a 72-hour hold
on N.B. DHS also filed an ex parte petition on April 20, 2015
requesting emergency custody and alleging that N.B. was
dependent-neglected. That same day, the circuit court entered
an ex parte order granting DHS emergency custody. The circuit
court adjudicated N.B. dependent-neglected as a result of
parental unfitness related to Robinson's drug use.
permanency-planning hearing on April 19, 2016, the court
heard testimony from the DHS caseworker assigned to the case.
In an order entered on June 30, 2016, the circuit court
changed the goal of the case from reunification to adoption.
5, 2016, DHS and the attorney ad litem for the minor child
filed a joint petition for termination of parental rights
alleging three grounds for termination. The circuit court
held a hearing on the petition on September 14, 2016. At the
hearing, Sher'Risa Johnson, another cousin of
Robinson's, requested placement of N.B. The caseworker
testified that Johnson had attempted to gain custody of N.B.
when the case first opened, but DHS did not consider her for
placement at that time because Johnson was not yet 21 years
old. At the time of the termination hearing, Sher'Risa
had turned 21 years old, and DHS had approved her home. Both
Johnson and Robinson testified that before N.B. entered
foster care, Johnson was N.B.'s primary caregiver.
order entered on October 5, 2016, the circuit court found by
clear and convincing evidence that it was in the best
interest of N.B. to terminate Robinson's parental rights.
In making its finding, the circuit court specifically
considered the likelihood that the juvenile would be adopted
and the potential harm to the health and safety of the
juvenile caused by returning the juvenile to the custody of
the parent. Robinson's timely appeal is now properly
before this court.
standard of review in termination-of-parental rights cases is
well settled; we review these cases de novo. Dinkins v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark. 207, 40 S.W.3d
286 (2001). Termination of parental rights is an extreme
remedy and in derogation of the natural rights of parents;
however, parental rights will not be enforced to the
detriment or destruction of the health and well-being of the
child. Smithee v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
2015 Ark. 506, 471 S.W.3d 227. The termination of parental
rights involves a two-step process in which the circuit court
must find that the parent is unfit and that termination is in
the child's best interest, considering the likelihood of
adoption and the potential for harm if the child is returned
to the parent's custody. Murray v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 431, 429 S.W.3d 288.
must find that at least one statutory ground exists, 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). 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).
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). In
determining whether a finding is clearly erroneous, we give
due deference to the opportunity of the circuit court to
judge the credibility of witnesses. Dinkins,
supra. The appellate court will not act as a
"super factfinder, " substituting its own judgment
or second guessing the credibility determinations of the
court; we only reverse in those ...