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Krecker v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

October 18, 2017

JAMES KRECKER APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17JV-15-33] HONORABLE MICHAEL MEDLOCK, JUDGE

          Leah Lanford, 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.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.

         James Krecker appeals after the Crawford County Circuit Court filed an order terminating his parental rights to S.K. (DOB 7-24-2004), N.K. (DOB 5-25-2006), and J.K. (DOB 6-20-2007) on March 13, 2017.[1] On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred in terminating his parental rights as to S.K. only; he does not argue that the trial court erred in terminating his parental rights to J.K. or N.K. Appellant more specifically argues that it was not in S.K.'s best interest to terminate his parental rights because there was evidence from her therapists that S.K. needed to continue working on reunification with him and that it would be very hard to find her an adoptive home. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         Appellant and Crystal Krecker have three children, S.K., N.K., and J.K., whose ages now range between ten and thirteen years old. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has had a long history of involvement with these children. Crystal originally had custody of the three children. While the children were in Crystal's custody, DHS opened a case in 2011. In 2013, the children were removed from Crystal and their stepfather, David Todd, for sexual abuse, inadequate housing, and incarceration of the parents. The three children were placed with their father, James. At the time of this placement, James was married to Corina Krecker. Corina has four minor children of her own.[2] When James's three children were placed with him, that resulted in seven children living in the home.

         Two years later, the instant proceedings commenced. It was discovered that S.K., N.K., and J.K. had bruises on their upper thighs. DHS was contacted and determined that the bruising was consistent "with being struck with a belt in an out of control or violent manner that indicates their caretaker is behaving towards the children in a manner that is violent or out of control." On January 21, 2015, DHS placed a seventy-two-hour hold on S.K., N.K., and J.K. Further investigation revealed that the bruising was caused by the stepmother, Corina. DHS removed appellant's three children from the home but allowed Corina's four children to remain in the home because there were no signs of physical abuse to them. Accordingly, on January 26, 2015, DHS filed a petition for ex parte emergency custody and dependency-neglect of S.K., N.K., and J.K. The trial court granted the petition, finding that probable cause existed for the removal. Subsequently, the trial court filed a probable-cause order.

         An adjudication hearing was held on April 30, 2015. The record indicates that appellant attended the hearing. The trial court found that the three children were dependent-neglected as defined in the Arkansas Juvenile Code and that the allegations in the petition were true and correct. Specifically, the trial court found that the children were dependent-neglected due to the physical abuse perpetrated by the stepmother, Corina, and due to the failure to protect perpetrated by appellant.

         Several review hearings were held throughout this case. A permanency-planning hearing was held on February 18, 2016, and a permanency-planning order was filed on May 12, 2016. In that order, the trial court noted that the goal of the case was to authorize a plan to place custody of the children with their father. Appellant had been partially complying with the case plan. The trial court ordered that placement of the children occur within a time frame that was consistent with their developmental needs but no later than three months after the permanency-planning hearing. Additionally, the trial court made the following additional findings:

9. The father and step-mother have partially complied with the case plan in that they have completed regular parenting classes, have completed a psychological evaluation, have begun family therapy, they have appropriate beds for the children and a separate room for [S.K.], they have visited consistently and have maintained employment. They have not finished Parenting Without Violence classes, have not attended individual counseling as recommended and continue to have some environmental issues in the home. They need to make arrangements for the children to be supervised while the parents work or sleep. They also need to address environmental concerns with the home including the roach and mice infestation, and they need to obtain an alarm to put on [S.K.'s] bedroom.[3] They have missed some parenting classes during this review period.
10. The father and step-mother are ordered to follow the recommendations in their psychological evaluation for individual and family therapy; participate in family therapy as recommended by the juveniles' therapist; make arrangements for the children to be supervised while the parents work or sleep; address the roach and mice infestation and obtain an alarm to put on [S.K.'s] bedroom; finish Parenting Without Violence classes, visit regularly and actively participate in the visitation; and otherwise comply with the case plan.

(Emphasis added.)

         During a weekend visit in which the three children were allowed to stay at appellant and Corina's home, an incident occurred. J.K. disclosed that S.K. and E.W., one of the four children who had remained in the home, had touched her in a sexual manner one night during visitation. One of the requirements for the weekend visitation was that an alarm was to be placed on S.K.'s bedroom. While an alarm was obtained and verified as working before the visitation began, it was alleged that appellant and Corina did not turn the alarm on for S.K.'s bedroom. Thus, the trial court ...


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