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McLennan v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

September 20, 2017

JACQUELINE R. MCLENNAN APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, TENTH DIVISION [NO. 60JN-15-762] HONORABLE JOYCE WILLIAMS WARREN, JUDGE.

          Kimberly Eden, for appellant.

         One brief only.

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, JUDGE.

         Jacqueline R. McLennan appeals the Pulaski County Circuit Court's decision to terminate her parental rights to her children A.R. and J.M. McLennan's counsel has filed a motion to withdraw and a no-merit brief pursuant to our rules and caselaw, stating that there are no meritorious grounds to support an appeal. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9 (2016); Linker-Flores v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004). Our court clerk mailed-by restricted delivery, return receipt requested-a certified copy of counsel's motion and brief to McLennan's last-known address informing her of her right to file pro se points for reversal. McLennan has not filed pro se points for reversal, and the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has not filed a brief. We affirm the court's decision to terminate McLennan's parental rights and grant counsel's motion to withdraw.

         I.

         J.M. and A.R. were adjudicated dependent-neglected after McLennan failed to take reasonable action to protect A.R. from sexual harm and J.M. from the risk of serious harm by sexual exploitation. The court found that the DHS caseworker's affidavit was correct and true that (a) A.R. reported that her grandfather asked her to have sex with him, (b) A.R. had no place to live, (c) McLennan was not adequately supervising the children because she was on methamphetamine, and (d) A.R.'s grandmother forced A.R. into prostitution, making her to have sex with a man for money.

         In a November 2015 review order, the circuit court found that DHS had not made reasonable efforts to provide family-reunification services and that it failed to provide a foster youth transition plan for A.R., which is required by statute. The court further found that McLennan had not corrected the conditions which caused the juveniles' removal and that she tested positive for THC, opiates, amphetamines, PCP, and benzodiazepines.

         In February 2016, the court found that McLennan had partially complied with the case plan, that she was making slow progress, and that DHS was making reasonable efforts. The court entered a permanency-planning order in June 2016 and changed the case-plan goal to adoption. The court noted that A.R. had a verbal altercation with her foster parents and was placed in an emergency shelter that was not an appropriate placement for her. J.M. was doing well. The court found that McLennan's compliance with the case plan was minimal and that she had not completed her psychological examination, individual counseling, or drug-and-alcohol assessment. As for DHS, the court found that it had less than partial compliance with the case plan and court orders. It found that there was no evidence that DHS had provided all the necessary education services for A.R. and that it did not notify the court that A.R. had been moved from the foster home to South Arkansas Youth Services.

         Less than a week later, DHS filed a petition for termination of parental rights. Three grounds were alleged against McLennan: (1) twelve-month, failure-to-remedy ground; (2) other factors arising; and (3) aggravated circumstances. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a), 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a), and 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix).

         Samantha Parker, the DHS caseworker, testified that McLennan should have known her children were at risk for sexual exploitation because her parents (A.R. and J.M.'s grandparents) sexually exploited her when she was a child. She also said that McLennan did not complete the court-ordered psychological evaluation and was dropped from individual counseling for nonattendance and noncompliance. She said that continuing services would not likely result in reunification between the McLennan and her children because she had not taken advantage of any services thus far. On cross-examination, Parker said that DHS had provided McLennan with a bus pass and that she had a job at the Little Rock Zoo. Later, she testified that she did not think it was possible for McLennan to comply with the case plan even if she was given more time and that the children had been out of McLennan's custody almost fifteen months. And she explained that McLennan had not completed individual counseling, which would teach her ways to protect her children and think about who she lets watch them.

         DHS Adoption Specialist Jessica Warren testified that the juveniles are adoptable and that the department had identified 53 families "for them together."

         McLennan then made a general directed-verdict motion, which the court denied.

         For her part, McLennan testified that she had four or five caseworkers throughout the case and that she went to a drug-and-alcohol assessment in July. She said that she had provided for her children since birth, that she had let her grandmother watch the kids, and that "it just happened that my mother pops up at my grandmother's house" when the event occurred. On cross-examination, she testified that she learned things about the case through A.R. and that "no one would call me or tell my anything" and that if she had more time she could complete ...


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