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Brasher v. Arkansas Department of Human Services and Minor Child

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 20, 2017

BRITTNEY BRASHER APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE BOONE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 05JV-14-90] HONORABLE DEANNA "SUZIE" LAYTON, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE

         Brittney Brasher appeals the Boone County Circuit Court order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, D.M.[1] On appeal, she argues that the circuit court erred in finding that it was in D.M.'s best interest to terminate her parental rights. We affirm.

         On December 8, 2014, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) petitioned the circuit court for emergency custody and dependency-neglect over D.M. The affidavit attached to the petition stated that D.M.'s father had left her in the custody of her maternal great-grandparents and that their residence was inappropriate for the child.[2] The affidavit noted that Brasher was incarcerated in Texas for a child-endangerment charge and that the State of Arkansas had terminated her parental rights to two other children as a result of her methamphetamine addiction. The court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody on the day the petition was filed. On December 12, 2014, the court found probable cause for the emergency custody. On February 24, 2015, the court adjudicated D.M. dependent-neglected.

         On May 13, 2015, the court held a review hearing. Brasher appeared for the hearing by telephone because she remained incarcerated in Texas. The court ordered Brasher to comply with the case plan and court orders and to cooperate with DHS.

         On August 11, 2015, the court held a second review hearing. The court noted that Brasher had been released from jail in Texas in May 2015 but that she did not contact DHS until the current hearing, she had not visited D.M., and she had not complied with the case plan. The court changed the goal of the case to adoption but ordered Brasher to continue to comply with the case plan. Specifically, the court ordered her to provide paycheck stubs to DHS, to attend counseling, and to submit to random drug screens.

         On February 9, 2016, the court held a permanency-planning hearing. The court found that Brasher had not complied with the case plan. The court noted that Brasher was arrested in November 2015 on an old warrant for a parole violation in Arkansas and had remained incarcerated through December 15, 2015. The court further noted that she had not consistently visited D.M., had attended only a few counseling sessions, and did not have steady employment.

         On July 18, 2016, DHS filed a petition for termination of Brasher's parental rights. DHS alleged five grounds for termination.[3] On August 17 and 23, the court held a termination hearing. Brasher testified that she was currently living with her fiancé, Jeffery Muldoon. She explained that they had lived together for a little over a year and planned to move into a bigger house. She stated that she was working temporary jobs for family and friends and that she also had filed for disability due to her seizures and anxiety. She testified that Muldoon is employed and that their joint income is sufficient to support D.M. She further noted that Muldoon had a previous drug addiction and that he was currently on probation.

         Brasher explained that when she was released from prison in Texas, she did not immediately contact DHS because she did not have transportation back to Arkansas. She noted that a friend eventually paid for her transportation to Arkansas, and when she returned, she again did not contact DHS because she did not have a stable home. Her grandmother later informed her about the August 2015 review hearing.

         Brasher testified that D.M. first entered the foster-care system in North Dakota in 2012, when she was born with methamphetamine in her system. She stated that she had two other children, L.M. and A.M., and that her parental rights had been terminated to them. As to the current case, she testified that she had attended scheduled visitations with D.M. unless her seizure disorder prevented her from attending.

         Brasher further testified that drugs had been a problem throughout her life and that her "drug of choice" is methamphetamine. She explained that she had participated in the drug-court program in 2009 but had relapsed. She stated that she has now been sober for four years. She explained that she reentered the drug-court program about six months before the hearing and hoped to complete the program by March 2018. If she failed, she would receive a six-year prison sentence. Brasher testified that she chairs Narcotics Anonymous meetings and that she also attends a Christian-based program called "Breaking the Chains." She testified that DHS had referred her for a drug-and-alcohol ...


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