FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-15-745]
HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
A. Sharum, County Legal Operations, for appellee.
Goff, County Legal Operations, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
M. GLOVER, JUDGE
Curtis appeals the Washington County Circuit Court's
January 13, 2017 order terminating her parental rights to her
son, Q.C., born October 18, 2013. She argues the circuit court
erred because the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)
failed to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, grounds
for termination or that termination was in Q.C.'s best
interest. We affirm.
September 9, 2015, DHS took a seventy-two-hour hold on Q.C.
due to Curtis's arrest on several drug-related charges
and a charge of endangering the welfare of a minor. On
September 14, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and
dependency-neglect; an ex parte order of custody was granted
the same day. The affidavit attached to DHS's petition
indicated Curtis had left Q.C. with a man named Ingram Bell,
who failed to properly supervise Q.C., leaving him in a dirty
high chair while Bell slept upstairs. There was also evidence
Curtis and Q.C. were present in the house during drug deals;
although the drugs and drug paraphernalia had been
confiscated at the time of Curtis's arrest, it was
reported that both the drugs and drug paraphernalia had been
located within Q.C.'s reach.
September 18, a probable-cause order was entered. Curtis was
ordered to contact her caseworker once a week, attend
individual counseling, refrain from using illegal drugs and
alcohol, undergo a drug-and-alcohol assessment, submit to
random drug screens, complete parenting classes, obtain and
maintain stable housing and employment, demonstrate the
ability to keep Q.C. safe from harm, follow the case plan,
and resolve all criminal charges against her. A hair-follicle
test was ordered to be performed on Q.C.
order filed November 15, 2015, Q.C. was adjudicated
dependent-neglected. This order provided that Q.C.'s
hair-follicle test was positive for methamphetamine and
amphetamines; it also continued the directives set forth for
Curtis in the probable-cause order.
review order, filed March 11, 2016, stated Jacob Riles,
identified as Curtis's fiancé, was present for
that hearing. The circuit court found Curtis did not yet have
stable housing and had not completed parenting classes;
however, she had made sufficient progress to warrant expanded
visitation and had complied with most of the court's
orders and the case plan. The circuit court ordered Curtis,
among other things, to continue individual counseling; submit
to intensive outpatient substance-abuse counseling as her
drug-and-alcohol assessment recommended; refrain from the use
of illegal drugs and alcohol; submit to random
drug-and-alcohol screens at least three times a month;
complete twelve hours of parenting classes by July 1, 2016;
obtain and maintain stable housing and employment; follow the
case plan; demonstrate her ability to protect Q.C. and keep
him safe from harm; and attend AA/NA/Celebrate Recovery
meetings twice a week and provide proof to her caseworker.
The circuit court further ordered Curtis and Riles to submit
to drug screens that day.
permanency-planning order filed August 24, 2016, the circuit
court found Curtis was not fully complying with the case plan
and orders of the court, was not making significant
measurable progress toward achieving the goals established in
the case plan, and was not diligently working toward
reunification; the case goal was changed from reunification
to termination of parental rights and authorization of a plan
for adoption. While finding Curtis had complied with some
court orders and parts of the case plan, the circuit court
found she had not obtained and maintained stable and safe
housing, having had six different housing situations since
the inception of the case; she had maintained employment but
had changed jobs since the last hearing; she had not
demonstrated an ability to keep Q.C. safe from harm; she had
not submitted to all drug screens as ordered, having missed
eight drug screens since the last hearing and having failed
to submit to any drug screens in June 2016; and she had not
demonstrated she could safely and properly parent Q.C.,
despite having participated in parenting classes and
counseling. The circuit court further noted inappropriate
behavior with respect to Curtis's fiancé, Jacob
Riles, finding that Curtis had fabricated a story about Riles
attempting suicide to get his family's attention and that
Riles was not a stable and fit father figure for Q.C., having
referred to Q.C. as "n***a" on Facebook, and having
posted photographs of alcohol and references to a
"party" lifestyle on Facebook, which was not a
proper influence for Curtis. Faced with these findings,
Curtis stated to the court she intended to remain with Riles
and marry him. Curtis was again ordered, among other things,
to submit to random alcohol-and-drug screens at DHS direction
at least three times a month; obtain and maintain safe and
stable housing and stable employment; and attend
AA/NA/Celebrate Recovery meetings twice a week and provide
proof of such to her caseworker.
September 26, 2016, DHS filed a petition to terminate
Curtis's parental rights. In addition to its assertion
that termination of Curtis's parental rights was in
Q.C.'s best interest, DHS relied on two grounds for
termination in its petition: (1) Q.C. had been adjudicated
dependent-neglected and had continued out of Curtis's
custody for twelve months and despite a meaningful effort by
DHS to rehabilitate Curtis and correct the conditions that
caused removal, the conditions had not been remedied (Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (Repl.
2015)); and (2) other factors or issues arose subsequent to
the filing of the original petition for dependency-neglect
that demonstrate placement of Q.C. in Curtis's custody is
contrary to his health, safety, or welfare and that despite
the offer of appropriate family services, Curtis had
manifested the incapacity or indifference to remedy the
subsequent issues or factors or rehabilitate the
circumstances that prevented placement of Q.C. with her (Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)((vii)(a)). After
a hearing on the petition, the circuit court terminated
Curtis's parental rights on both grounds in an order
dated January 13, 2017.
termination hearing, held December 16, 2016, family-service
worker supervisor Lori Johnson (filling in for assigned
caseworker Rachel Reader), testified that while Curtis was in
partial compliance with the case plan, the root concerns of
why Q.C. had come into DHS care had not been remedied.
Specifically, Johnson's concerns were that Curtis had not
submitted to random drug screens three times a month as
ordered by the court. This was troubling to Johnson because
one reason Q.C. came into care was due to Curtis's arrest
on drug charges; Johnson did not believe Curtis had
demonstrated the ability to protect Q.C. and keep him safe
from harm; Curtis had a continued relationship with Jacob
Riles despite the court's concern that he was not an
appropriate person to be around Q.C.; Curtis failed to
provide proof of full-time stable employment; and Curtis
failed to provide proof she was participating in AA or NA or
Celebrate Recovery meetings. Johnson testified Q.C. had no
medical or behavioral issues that would preclude him from
being adopted. She further stated the most important thing
was for Q.C. to know he has a stable home and caregivers who
can protect him and keep him safe, and she did not believe he
would have these things if returned to Curtis's custody.
On cross-examination, Johnson acknowledged Curtis had been in
her current home for six months, and Ms. Reader had no
concerns about the physical environment of the home. However,