FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-16-229], HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE.
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
M. GLOVER, JUDGE.
Baxter appeals from the termination of her parental rights to
her son, J.B. Her counsel has filed a motion to withdraw and
an accompanying brief pursuant to Linker-Flores v.
Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194
S.W.3d 739 (2004), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i). In
it, counsel asserts that she has made a conscientious review
of the record and applicable law in this case and found no
meritorious issues that could arguably support the appeal.
The clerk of our court sent copies of the brief and motion to
Ms. Baxter, informing her that she had the right to file pro
se points for reversal. She has done so, and the Department
of Human Services (DHS) and counsel for the child have
jointly responded, explaining why her points do not support a
meritorious appeal of the termination. We affirm the
termination of Ms. Baxter's parental rights and grant her
counsel's motion to withdraw.
court reviews termination cases de novo, and we will not
reverse the trial court unless its findings are clearly
erroneous. Ford v. Arkansas Dep't of Human
Servs, 2017 Ark.App. 211. At least one statutory ground
for termination must exist, in addition to a finding that it
is in the child's best interest to terminate parental
rights, and these bases must be proved by clear and
convincing evidence. Id. Clear and convincing
evidence is that degree of proof that will produce in the
fact-finder a firm conviction as to the allegation sought to
be established. Id. The appellate inquiry is whether
the trial court's finding that the disputed fact was
proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly erroneous.
Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although
there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the
entire evidence is left with a definite and firm conviction
that a mistake has been made. Id.
reviewing the record, counsel reports that there was only one
adverse ruling, which was the termination itself, and that it
does not provide an arguable basis for reversal. We agree.
was taken into emergency custody at the time of his birth
because he tested positive for methamphetamine. Ms. Baxter
admitted at that time she had a long-time problem with
methamphetamine. Her two-year-old child was already in her
probable-cause hearing was held on February 22, 2016, the
adjudication hearing on April 6, 2016, and a review hearing
on August 8, 2016. Ms. Baxter was not present for any of
those hearings. At the August 8 review hearing, the trial
court noted that the maternal grandmother had changed her
mind about being considered for placement and set the
concurrent goal of adoption and reunification. DHS was
authorized to file a termination petition, which was done on
December 15, 2016. The grounds alleged in the petition were
1) subsequent factors, Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii); 2) abandonment, Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(iv); and 3) aggravated circumstances, Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix), along with the
assertion that it was in the child's best interest to
terminate Ms. Baxter's parental rights.
February 6, 2017, a permanency-planning/termination hearing
was held, and this was the first time Ms. Baxter appeared.
She was brought to the hearing from the Arkansas Department
adoption specialist, who had also been the caseworker
assigned to the case, testified that J.B. had been in DHS
custody since his birth based on a positive test for
methamphetamine; that the termination hearing was the first
hearing Ms. Baxter had attended; that there had been no
visitation with Ms. Baxter, much less any trial placements;
that she had continued to submit referrals for Ms. Baxter for
psychological evaluation, parenting classes, individual
counseling, and drug-and-alcohol assessment because those
services had been ordered by the court, but she had had no
way of notifying Ms. Baxter of the referrals; that Ms. Baxter
had not completed any of the services offered by DHS; and
that it was her opinion it was in J.B.'s best interest to
terminate because he needed stability and Ms. Baxter had had
no contact with him or DHS during the pendency of the case.
She further testified that J.B. was adoptable based on her
data-match search and that his medical issues did not pose a
problem in that regard.
Baxter also testified. She acknowledged that not only was she
currently incarcerated but that she was also facing new
felony-drug charges, and she was not sure what the outcome of
those charges would be. She stated that she had not contacted
DHS until she was served with the termination papers because
that was the first time she had an address or phone number;
that she wrote a letter because she did not have money or a
phone number for a phone call; that she had been in contact
with her mother, who had custody of her other child, and that
her mother had advised her to give up J.B. for adoption; that
she had been stressed out and depressed; that she was now
willing to do anything to get the help she needs; that she
was homeless, had a bad drug addiction, had been arrested
three or four times since J.B. was taken into custody, and
had not participated in any sort of drug therapy; and that
although she had enrolled in parenting classes while in
prison, she had not completed them.
foster mother testified that his medical issues included
aspirating and some hearing issues; that he attends
occupational-speech- and cognitive-therapy classes and
developmental preschool; and that he requires numerous
medical visits and is on medication but was a happy baby.
the termination hearing, the trial court terminated Ms.
Baxter's parental rights, concluding that DHS had proved
the grounds of subsequent factors, abandonment, and
aggravated circumstances. The trial court further found that
it was ...