FROM THE MADISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 44JV-15-43-3]
HONORABLE JOHN C. THREET, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
J. GLADWIN, Judge
Britney Smith appeals the October 19, 2016 order of the
Madison County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights
to her minor child, A.S. She argues that the circuit court
erred in granting the termination-of-parental-rights (TPR)
petition because appellee Arkansas Department of Human
Services (ADHS) failed to present sufficient evidence that
TPR was in the child's best interest, specifically
challenging the potential-harm element of the best-interest
analysis. We affirm.
August 17, 2015, ADHS went to the home of appellant and her
husband, Fletcher Smith,  to investigate allegations of drug use,
environmental neglect, and striking a child with a closed
fist. When arriving at the home, ADHS encountered the parents
and A.S. The ADHS worker observed that A.S. did not have any
bruises but that the home was dirty. The parents were also
unable to produce samples for the ADHS worker to perform drug
tests. While the ADHS worker was at the home, the maternal
grandmother and great-grandmother arrived and removed A.S.
from the home over the objection of the ADHS worker. The ADHS
worker, with the assistance of the police, was able to
retrieve A.S. ADHS exercised a seventy-two-hour hold on A.S.
based on the family's prior history with ADHS, the
family's refusal to comply with the investigation, and
the family members' absconding with A.S.
August 20, 2015, ADHS filed a petition for emergency custody
and dependency-neglect, alleging detailed concerns of drug
use, environmental neglect, and that A.S. had been hit with a
closed fist. Also on August 20, 2015, the circuit court
entered an ex parte order for emergency custody granting ADHS
custody of A.S. A probable-cause hearing was held on August
25, 2015, after which the circuit court entered an order
finding that probable cause existed, based on (1) the home
being unsafe, (2) the parents refusing drug screens, (3) a
family member fleeing with A.S., and (4) the extensive
history between ADHS and the family, such that continued
custody of A.S. should remain with ADHS. The circuit court
entered a supervised visitation schedule and ordered certain
services. Specifically, appellant was ordered to cooperate
with ADHS; call the caseworker once a week; attend the
case-plan staffing; keep ADHS informed of her contact
information; refrain from using illegal drugs; submit to
random weekly drug screens; maintain stable, clean, and safe
housing; maintain stable, adequate employment; demonstrate an
ability to keep the juvenile safe; submit to a hair-follicle
drug screen; and follow the case plan and court orders.
report was submitted on September 18, 2015, that detailed
that A.S. was healthy and "on track for his age."
Following the adjudication hearing held on September 21,
2015, the circuit court entered an order adjudicating A.S.
dependent-neglected based on the finding that A.S. was at a
risk of harm due to neglect and parental unfitness and
finding that the previous allegations in the petition were
true and correct-the poor environmental conditions of the
home, the failure of the parents to submit to a drug screen
during the investigation, and the great-grandmother running
off with A.S. The circuit court noted that since A.S. had
been removed, appellant had failed a drug screen for
methamphetamine and amphetamine and that they had moved and
reportedly were staying with friends in Fayetteville.
Appellant had attended only two of four scheduled visits and
had not submitted to weekly drug screens. The goal of the
case was set for reunification, and A.S. was placed in the
home of relatives at the time of the hearing. The circuit
court continued its prior orders, adding that appellant was
to participate in individual counseling and complete twenty
hours of parenting classes.
circuit court found that appellant had complied with the
prior orders from the probable-cause hearing in that she was
working, that she had attended the case-plan staffing, and
that she had scheduled an appointment with Ozark Guidance
Center so that she could resume her mental-health
medications. ADHS had made referrals for individual
counseling and hair-follicle exams but had not yet received
approval for those services. The circuit court allowed
visitation for the extended family.
Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) report was submitted on
January 14, 2016, that indicated that A.S. "enjoys the
visits with his mother, smiles when he sees her and becomes
fussy if she leaves the room." CASA detailed that
appellant's family had helped her obtain an apartment
that was clean and furnished. A.S. had remained with
appellant's relatives, even though the placement was
planned to be only temporary. Appellant's family was
committed to help support her in a manner that was best for
appellant and A.S. ADHS submitted a court report on January
20, 2016, that recommended continued foster care, work with
the family, and a review.
January 25, 2016, a review hearing was held. The circuit
court found that the parents had not made sufficient progress
to have A.S. returned to their custody. Appellant had not
complied with all court orders or case-planned services.
Although she was employed and was participating in therapy at
Ozark Guidance Center, the circuit court found that her
progress had been only minimal. The prior orders continued in
the review order filed on the same date.
CASA report was filed on May 4, 2016, and ADHS filed a court
report on May 11, 2016, and a case plan on May 12, 2016. The
permanency-planning hearing was held on May 16, 2016, at
which time the circuit court changed the goal of the case to
adoption. The circuit court found that appellant had not
complied with most of the court orders and case-planned
services and had made only minimal progress. Approximately
three months prior to this ...