FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-15-278] HONORABLE JIM D. SPEARS, JUDGE
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor chilren.
J. GLADWIN, Judge
Ashley Hollinger appeals the order of the Sebastian County
Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her
daughter, D.H., and her son, J.H. On appeal, she argues (1)
that reversal is warranted because there was insufficient
evidence presented to establish the grounds asserted in
support of termination; and (2) that appellee Arkansas
Department of Human Services (ADHS) failed to prove that
termination of her parental rights (TPR) was in the best
interest of her children. We affirm.
case began on April 15, 2015, when the Fort Smith Police
Department requested ADHS's assistance following several
arrests, including the arrest of Ashley,  after a
controlled drug buy in the home where Ashley and her
children, D.H. and J.H., were living. At the residence,
officers discovered marijuana, drug paraphernalia,
hydrocodone, and amphetamine. Based on these events, ADHS
filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect
on April 20, 2015. In the attached affidavit, ADHS asserted
that it had a previous history with Ashley's family
dating back to 2012 that included protective-services cases.
trial court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody
on April 20, 2015. On April 27, 2015, the trial court held a
probable-cause hearing and entered the resulting order on May
6, 2015. The trial court held that the probable cause that
necessitated the removal of D.H. and J.H. continued and that
custody should remain with ADHS.
trial court held an adjudication hearing on June 22, 2015,
and in an order that was not filed until September 30, 2015,
the trial court adjudicated D.H. and J.H. dependent-neglected
based on parental unfitness, threat of harm, and inadequate
supervision. The trial court further found that the children
were dependent-neglected as a result of Ashley's drug use
and her arrest following the discovery of drugs and drug
paraphernalia in the home where Ashley, D.H., and J.H. were
living. The trial court set the goal of the case as
reunification and ordered Ashley to obtain and maintain
housing, income, and transportation; to complete parenting
classes; to submit to a drug-and-alcohol assessment as well
as random drug screens; to submit to a psychological
evaluation; to complete domestic-violence classes; and to
resolve her pending criminal charges.
review hearing was held on October 5, 2015, with an order
filed on March 2, 2016. The trial court continued the goal of
reunification and found that ADHS had made reasonable efforts
to achieve that goal. The trial court noted that Ashley had
been released from jail during the review period, had
completed the drug-and-alcohol assessment, was attending the
recommended outpatient treatment, and had tested negative on
her drug screens. Ashley was also attending parenting classes
and was complying with the terms and conditions of her
criminal sentences pursuant to the trial court's order.
The trial court also noted that Ashley had not yet completed
a psychological evaluation, ADHS was "between providers,
" and that any resulting delay should not count against
trial court held a permanency-planning hearing on April 4,
2016, and entered an order on July 5, 2016, setting a
concurrent goal of reunification and adoption with TPR. The
trial court noted that Ashley was living with her boyfriend,
D.J. Jennings (Jennings), and that the pair were fixing up a
house in lieu of paying rent. Ashley was not employed and did
not have her own transportation. ADHS did note that she had
completed parenting classes, had completed a drug-and-alcohol
assessment, and was attending the recommended
outpatient-treatment program. Ashley resolved her criminal
charges and received a suspended sentence, although she was
arrested for failure to pay fines and expected to serve time
in jail as credit toward her fines.
25, 2016, the trial court held a fifteen-month review hearing
and subsequently entered an order on September 15, 2016.
Therein, the trial court ordered the goal of the case to be
changed to adoption. The trial court found that Ashley was
not in compliance with either the case plan or the court
orders, noting that she had stopped attending outpatient
treatment in December 2015, and upon her release from jail,
she had tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine.
The trial court further noted that Ashley recently had been
released from inpatient mental-health treatment at Levi
Hospital in Hot Springs, had not resolved her criminal
charges, and had not complied with the terms and conditions
of her sentences.
filed a TPR petition on September 16, 2016. Therein, ADHS
alleged that the following grounds supported TPR: failure to
remedy; subsequent factors; and aggravated circumstances.
ADHS further alleged that TPR was in the best interest of the
children. The trial court held a hearing on ADHS's TPR
petition on October 24, 2016. Melissa Dancer, ADHS's
caseworker who had been assigned to this case since the
children entered foster care, presented testimony. She stated
that Ashley and Jennings had been staying in a home with
another person when the drug arrests that prompted the
opening of this case occurred. According to Dancer, Ashley
was arrested on multiple charges but was ultimately convicted
of two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Dancer
stated that Ashley's ...