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Allison v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

September 6, 2017

JACOB ALLISON APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66JVF-15-253] HONORABLE JIM D. SPEARS, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          No response.

          OPINION

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.

         Jacob Allison appeals a Sebastian County Circuit Court order terminating his parental rights to his son, AA1, and his daughter, AA2, ages seven and five, respectively.[1] Allison's counsel has filed a motion to withdraw representation and a no-merit brief pursuant to Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2003), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i) (2016), stating that there are no meritorious grounds to support an appeal. The clerk mailed a certified copy of counsel's motion and brief to Allison informing him of his right to file pro se points for reversal. He has not done so. Because there are no issues of arguable merit presented, we affirm and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.

         The facts surrounding the removal of the children and the ultimate termination of parental rights are these. The Department of Human Services (DHS or Department) removed AA1 and AA2, then aged five and three, from the care and custody of their mother, Katie Alverson, on April 3, 2015. Alverson and the two children had been in the parking lot of a Fort Smith motel for approximately six hours. The children were filthy, they had no shoes, socks, or jackets, and their hair was infested with lice. Alverson was sitting on the curb with her head down, glassy-eyed, and her speech was slurred. She was not aware that the youngest child had walked across the parking lot to the other side of the building. Alverson tested positive for amphetamines, methamphetamine, and THC. She was arrested for public intoxication and two counts of second-degree child endangerment. She was also arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia after six syringes had been discovered in a backpack full of children's clothing. Allison, the appellant, was not present at the time of the children's removal.

         DHS filed and served a dependency-neglect petition against Allison. Despite being served, Allison did not respond to the petition or make appearances at any of the initial court proceedings. In his absence, the court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected based on the mother's drug use while caring for them, found Allison to be the legal father of the children, and ordered him to pay child support. The court awarded Allison visitation with the children for at least two hours every other week with the Department providing transportation for the parents to attend visitation. Allison was ordered to obtain and maintain stable and appropriate housing, income, and transportation. He was also ordered to complete parenting classes and visit the children regularly; to submit to random drug screens and hair- follicle testing at the request of the Department; to submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and complete any recommended treatment; to achieve and maintain total sobriety; to submit to a psychological assessment and comply with the recommendations thereof; and to resolve any pending criminal charges and comply with the terms and conditions of any criminal sentence. In sum, Allison was given the opportunity and the means to be involved in the lives of his children and the judicial process at the adjudication hearing.

         From the adjudication hearing, the court continued to monitor the proceeding with appropriate review hearings. Allison did not appear or participate in these proceedings. The court found that the children were receiving appropriate services in a therapeutic foster facility. Concerning Allison, the court received evidence that Allison had espoused a desire to be in the children's lives and had indicated that he would do whatever he could to help. However, the court also received evidence that Allison had spent a significant amount of time in jail since the hearing on adjudication, had been unemployed the entire time, had made no attempt to visit the children, and was not participating in the case plan.

         On July 18, 2016, a fifteen-month review hearing was held, and Allison made his first appearance in the proceedings. The court noted that Allison had been arrested on June 4, 2016, on drug charges and was incarcerated in the Sebastian County jail. The court found that Allison had not complied with either the case plan or the orders of the court. The court further found that Allison had not completed any services in his case plan, had not been in contact with the Department, and had made no effort whatsoever to visit or reunify with his children. The trial court changed the goal of the case from reunification to adoption, authorized the Department to file a petition to terminate parental rights, and appointed counsel for Allison.

         On September 16, 2016, the Department filed a petition for termination of parental rights. The petition alleged the following grounds as to Allison:

(A) The juveniles have been adjudicated by the Court to be dependent-neglected and have continued out of the home of the non-custodial father for twelve months, and, despite meaningful effort by the Department to rehabilitate him and correct the conditions that prevented the children from safely being placed in his home, the conditions have not been remedied. . . .
(B) The juveniles have lived outside the home of the parents for a period of twelve months and the parents have willfully failed to provide significant material support in accordance with the parents' means or to maintain meaningful contact with the juveniles. . . .
(C) The father has abandoned the juveniles. The father has failed to provide reasonable support or to maintain regular contact with the juveniles through statement or contact and his failure to do so is accompanied by an intention on the part of the father to permit the condition to continue for an indefinite period in the future. The father's failure to ...

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