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Grosso v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

May 10, 2017



          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Mary Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor child.

          MIKE MURPHY, Judge

         Appellant Ronald Del Grosso appeals the Pope County Circuit Court order terminating his parental rights to his minor child, R.D. He argues that sufficient evidence did not support the circuit court's order terminating his parental rights.[1] We affirm.

         The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) exercised emergency control over then-nine-year-old R.D. on July 23, 2015, upon notice that Del Grosso's live-in girlfriend, Jamie Ray, may have physically abused R.D. The affidavit further explained that Ray's minor son also lived in the home; the home was infested with ants and fleas; Ray stated several times she was not going to supervise R.D.; it was indicated Ray had brain cancer and stayed in bed most of the time; and she tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. DHS exercised a 72-hour hold based on Del Grosso's refusal to submit to a drug screen and his refusal to ensure that R.D. was supervised and protected from Ray.

         A little over a month later, R.D. was adjudicated dependent-neglected based on the finding that R.D. was at a risk of harm due to neglect because of Del Grosso's failure to appropriately supervise R.D. The case progressed through three review hearings. The resulting orders concluded that DHS made reasonable efforts to provide services for Del Grosso, but the resulting orders never specifically ruled on Del Grosso's compliance in the case. The first review order added that Del Grosso would be required to complete outpatient drug treatment. The second review order directed DHS to assist Ray in finding medical coverage for her health issues. The final review order required Del Grosso to attend counseling and ordered him to live separately from Ray.

         DHS filed its petition to terminate Del Grosso's parental rights on August 17, 2016, alleging the grounds of failure to remedy and subsequent factors. The goal of the case was changed to adoption, and the hearing was held September 19, 2016.

         At the hearing, Heather Moudy, the DHS caseworker, testified that her main concern was the housing and supervision situation because Ray still lived in the home. Moudy explained that she had tried to communicate with Ray, but she had been hostile and aggressive. Moudy also testified that she had gone to the home on multiple occasions to administer a random drug test on Del Grosso, but throughout the case she was able to find him at home only a couple of times. She testified that he had completed parenting classes but that he had not completed drug counseling as ordered because he started the program late and the funding had run out.

          Del Grosso testified that he still resided with Ray due to a money situation because "[he has] nowhere to put her" and "[doesn't] know what to do with her." He explained that just that day he found a place to keep her temporarily with a friend of his. He conceded that there had been some discussion at staffings or at court to implement an alternative plan to perhaps have someone else in the home to make sure that R.D. was not having any unsupervised contact with Ray. But Del Grosso explained that no suggestions were made about what needed to be done to implement that and that he did not have any relatives in the area to assist. He also testified that Ray's minor son had been removed from the home as well and that Ray refused to work her case plan.[2] Lastly, he testified that Ray had not applied for social security disability and that she was not receiving Medicaid. He admitted not having done anything to get Ray on any kind of assisted living because he had been so busy working.

         The circuit court terminated Del Grosso's parental rights, finding that doing so was in R.D.'s best interest. In its written order, the court specifically found that

beginning at the hearing on April 4, 2016, the Court ordered the father to live separate and apart from Jamie Ray. The father has not complied with this order and continues to reside with Ms. Ray. The CASA report which was admitted into evidence notes that Mr. Del Grosso has stated repeatedly over the past year that he will not remove Ms. Ray from his home and that the only times he has acknowledged the need for removing Ms. Ray, he has followed that with the qualifier "for now."

         The circuit court acknowledged that Del Grosso had complied with most of the court's orders but that this case had been open for fourteen months and Del Grosso had made little, if any, effort to separate himself and his child from Ray. The court concluded that the lack of progress for over a year and Del Grosso's use of the phrase "for now" ...

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