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Ladd v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

September 6, 2017

REBECCA LADD APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE CLEBURNE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 12JV-15-13] HONORABLE LEE WISDOM HARROD, JUDGE AFFIRMED

          Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellant.

          Mary Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         The Cleburne County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights of appellant Rebecca Ladd (now Pompa) to her daughter, H.H. (DOB: 12/27/2008).[1] On appeal, Pompa argues that the trial court erred (1) in terminating her parental rights because the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to prove grounds and (2) in terminating reunification services. She does not challenge the trial court's best-interest determination. We affirm.

         I. Procedural History

         On January 23, 2015, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect concerning H.H. based on parental unfitness due to continued drug use by Pompa. Attached to the petition was the affidavit of DHS family-service worker, John Seward. He attested that on January 7, 2015, Pompa tested positive for methamphetamine and THC.[2]Because H.H.'s maternal grandmother lived in the home and had agreed to provide care and supervision for H.H., DHS requested a "less-than-custody" order prohibiting Pompa from using illegal drugs. In the affidavit, Seward attested that DHS's first contact with the family was on February 2, 2010, with a true finding for neglect and failure to protect H.H.; however, the case was closed when the parents moved to New Mexico. He stated that on March 25, 2011, H.H. first came into foster care in Arkansas because of inadequate supervision due to the parents' drug use but that H.H. was returned to Pompa's custody on August 22, 2012. Seward said that on January 4, 2013, H.H. came into foster care again due to Pompa's inadequate supervision by permitting Hussman, whom she knew to be using methamphetamine, to care for H.H. on several occasions. On June 6, 2014, H.H. was returned to Pompa's custody; however, DHS continued to monitor the family. Seward stated that, during that time, Pompa tested positive for THC several times, so DHS made a referral for outpatient drug treatment. Pompa attended a couple of sessions and then began missing appointments.

         The trial court issued an ex parte order prohibiting Pompa from using illegal drugs and warning her that she risked having H.H. placed in DHS's custody if she continued her drug use. Pompa stipulated that probable cause existed for the emergency order and agreed to the protection plan involving supervision of H.H. by Pompa's mother, Ruth Towell-Wright. An adjudication hearing was scheduled for February 18, 2015.

          On February 3, 2015, DHS filed another petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect concerning H.H. on the basis that Pompa had continued to use illegal drugs. In an affidavit attached to the petition, DHS family-service-worker supervisor, Johnelle Switzer, attested that on February 1, 2015, DHS was contacted by the police because someone in the community had seen Pompa parked at an apartment smoking drugs from a glass pipe. Pompa was stopped by the police, and she admitted having used methamphetamine the previous day. On February 2, 2015, Pompa was ordered to submit to a drug test. She could not produce a sample but admitted that she had used methamphetamine. Pompa also admitted having taken H.H. to live with Amy Armstrong in Little Rock in an effort to keep the child out of foster care. DHS took a seventy-two-hour hold on H.H. In an adjudication order entered February 27, 2015, Pompa stipulated to the dependency-neglect finding based on parental unfitness due to continued drug use. An ex parte order for emergency custody issued, making a second probable-cause hearing necessary. The trial court found that probable cause existed for H.H. to remain in DHS's custody and that DHS had provided reasonable services, including drug screens and referrals for drug treatment.

         On April 13, 2015, DHS filed a motion to terminate reunification services, alleging that H.H. had been subjected to aggravated circumstances, specifically, that there was little likelihood that additional services would result in successful reunification. DHS alleged that it had been involved with the family since March 2011, that H.H. had been taken into foster care three times due to illegal drug use by her parents, that extensive services had been offered, and that continued services would not likely result in permanent reunification due to the parents' continued drug use, noncompliance, and lack of stable living conditions.

         On July 14, 2015, a review order was entered. The trial court noted that DHS had requested not to proceed yet on its motion to terminate reunification services. The court stated that the goal continued to be reunification and found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to achieve that goal by offering, among other things, drug screening, referrals for drug treatment, drug assessments, mental-health counseling, family counseling, parenting classes, home visits, and transportation. The trial court found that Pompa was not in compliance with the case plan and ordered her to submit to and complete inpatient drug treatment.

         DHS filed a petition for termination of both Pompa's and Hussman's parental rights on July 15, 2015, alleging grounds under Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (twelvemonth failure to remedy), (ii)(a) (failure to provide significant material support and maintain meaningful contact), (iv) (abandonment by Pompa's willingness to consent to the adoption of H.H. if she could choose the adoptive parents), (vii)(a) (other subsequent factors), and (ix)(a) (aggravated circumstances in that there was little likelihood of successful reunification). A hearing was held on October 28 and continued on October 30, 2015.

         II. Hear ...


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