FROM THE CLARK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 10JV-15-28]
HONORABLE ROBERT E. McCALLUM, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge
Johna McNeer appeals from the decision of the Clark County
Circuit Court to terminate her parental rights to her twin
children, M.T.M.1 and M.T.M.2 (d/o/b 3/22/07). On appeal, she
does not contest the circuit court's finding that
sufficient statutory grounds supported the termination.
Instead, she challenges the best-interest prong, arguing that
there was insufficient proof regarding the adoptability of
the children and the potential harm they faced if returned to
her custody. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has a significant
history with McNeer and her twin children. DHS opened a
preventive-services case when the children were born with
cocaine in their systems. DHS later filed a petition for
emergency custody and for a finding of dependency-neglect in
April 2015, alleging neglect and parental unfitness.
had been involved in a hit-and-run accident and was being
placed under arrest when officers found possible cocaine in
her car within reach of the children. McNeer also had a
warrant out of Little Rock and another out of Searcy. McNeer
refused to take a drug screen for DHS but admitted that she
would be positive for marijuana and crack cocaine. Because
McNeer had no family who could take the twins, DHS took
custody of the children.
children were subsequently adjudicated dependent-neglected
due to neglect and parental unfitness. Specifically, the
court found that McNeer had used cocaine immediately prior to
the removal of the children and had left cocaine within reach
of the children. McNeer stipulated to these findings. The
court set the goal of the case as reunification and directed
DHS to develop a case plan.
2015, the circuit court entered an order returning custody of
the children to McNeer. In July 2015 and October 2015, the
court entered review orders continuing custody with McNeer,
finding that she had substantially complied with the case
plan and that she had completed a drug-treatment program. The
return of custody, however, was short lived. In November
2015, DHS filed another motion for ex parte emergency change
of custody. The affidavit accompanying this motion noted that
since the children had been returned to McNeer's custody
in June, McNeer had experienced some mental-health problems
that necessitated treatment at a dual-diagnosis treatment
facility. McNeer was released from treatment in September
with a plan to complete three drug screens per week and
attend a twelve-step program. Despite that plan, McNeer
attended only two drug screens in the week after she had been
discharged and one the following week, and she failed to
appear for any other drug screens after that time. In
addition, McNeer failed to meet with DHS staff despite
repeated requests that she do so, and her children missed
multiple days of school after she had been discharged from
treatment. When DHS was finally able to contact her, McNeer
texted her caseworker to say that she was going to give
custody of her children to an aunt in Mississippi.
court once more adjudicated the children dependent-neglected
in March 2016 due to neglect and parental unfitness as a
result of McNeer's drug use. The goal of the case
remained reunification at that time. By the time of an August
2016 review order, however, the court found that the case
plan was not moving toward an appropriate permanency plan for
the children. The court found that McNeer had not complied
with the case plan because she had been incarcerated since
March 2016. Following a permanency-planning hearing in
September 2016, the court changed the goal of the case to
adoption and authorized DHS to file a petition for
termination of parental rights. In its order, the court noted
that McNeer was serving a four-year prison sentence related
to a revocation of her probation stemming from the March 2015
hit-and-run accident and her guilty plea to possession of
drugs and drug paraphernalia.
subsequently filed a petition for termination of McNeer's
parental rights alleging four statutory grounds for
termination and that termination was in the best
interest of the children. After a hearing, the circuit court
entered an order terminating McNeer's parental rights,
specifically finding that the termination was in the best
interest of the children.
filed a timely notice of appeal and now argues to this court
that the circuit court erred in finding that termination was
in the children's best interest. Specifically, McNeer
argues that there was a "complete lack of evidence . . .
establishing the adoptability of the children" and that
the evidence was insufficient to show that returning the
children to her posed a risk of potential harm.