FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT
[NO. 16JJV-15-410] HONORABLE CINDY THYER, 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
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.
Natasha Furnish appeals a Craighead County Circuit Court
order terminating her parental rights to three of her
children, B.M., A.M., and C.M. More specifically, she challenges
both the trial court's findings of statutory grounds and
its best-interest determination. We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
Department of Human Services (DHS) exercised a
seventy-two-hour hold on R.M., B.M., A.M., and C.M. on
November 10, 2015, at the direction of the Cleburne County
Circuit Court at a Family in Need of Services (FINS) hearing.
The court directed the hold after Furnish had tested positive
for amphetamines, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepine.
Although the hold was taken in Cleburne County, DHS filed its
dependency-neglect petition in Craighead County where Furnish
was a resident.
children were subsequently adjudicated dependent-neglected on
December 11, 2015, based on parental unfitness due to
Furnish's drug usage. The court ordered Furnish to remain
drug free, to submit to random drug screens, and to submit to
a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow the recommendations
thereof. She was further ordered to participate in and
complete parenting classes; obtain and maintain clean, safe,
and stable housing with working utilities; obtain and
maintain stable income or employment; and to provide DHS with
a budget indicating sufficient income or resources to meet
the needs of the family.
review hearing in May 2016, the court continued the goal of
the case as reunification, finding that Furnish had only
partially complied with the case plan. Specifically, the
court found that she had not participated in parenting
classes, remained drug free, obtained appropriate housing,
obtained stable employment, or prepared or submitted a
budget. The court also noted that Furnish had missed two
drug-and-alcohol-assessment appointments as well as her
psychological evaluation. The court ordered her to attend
second review hearing was held on July 27, 2016. The court
again found that Furnish was not cooperating or complying
with the case plan, continuing the same failures from the
last review hearing: she still had not participated in
parenting classes, obtained appropriate housing or stable
employment, or prepared a budget. With regard to sobriety,
the court was unable to determine if she had remained drug
free because she had not submitted to random drug testing.
The court noted that Furnish was admitted to a 120-day
inpatient-drug-rehabilitation program, but she left of her
own volition after completing only twelve days.
September 9, 2016, less than one year from the date of
removal, DHS filed a petition to terminate Furnish's
parental rights to B.M., A.M., and C.M., alleging the
subsequent-other-factors ground for termination. DHS alleged
that Furnish had failed to complete her parenting classes;
did not have stable employment; had not completed a budget
indicating sufficient income; had sporadic and tardy
visitation; had not submitted to random drug screens since
July 2016; had left inpatient-drug rehabilitation before its
completion; and had recently tested positive for meth and
opiates. In regard to the recent positive tests, DHS alleged
that Furnish had given birth to another child, M.M., who
tested positive for opiates at birth.
court held a termination hearing on October 11, 2016. After
the hearing, the trial court entered an order terminating
Furnish's parental rights to the three children. The
court found that DHS had proved by clear and convincing
evidence the subsequent-other-factors ground for termination.
The court then held that termination was in the best interest
of the children, finding that the children are adoptable and
that there was potential harm to the children if returned to
Furnish's custody. Furnish appeals the trial court's
order terminating her parental rights, challenging the
court's findings on both statutory grounds and best
Standard of Review
rights of natural parents are not to be passed over lightly.
The termination of parental rights is an extreme remedy and
in derogation of the natural rights of the parents. Fox
v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2014 Ark.App. 666,
448 S.W.3d 735. As a result, there is a heavy burden placed
on the party seeking to terminate the relationship.
Id. In order to terminate parental rights, a trial
court must find by clear and convincing evidence that
termination is in the best interest of the juvenile, taking
into consideration (1) the likelihood that the juvenile will
be adopted if the termination petition is granted; and (2)
the potential harm, specifically addressing the effect on the
health and safety of the child, caused by returning the child
to the custody of the parent. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(A)(i) & (ii) (Repl. 2015). The order
terminating parental rights must also be based on a showing
of clear and convincing evidence as to one or more of the
grounds for termination listed in section ...