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Garner v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

October 25, 2017

ASHLEY GARNER (CONRAD) APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26JV-16-25] HONORABLE LYNN WILLIAMS, JUDGE

          Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Mary Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          MIKE MURPHY, Judge

         Appellant Ashley Garner (Conrad)[1] appeals the March 22, 2017 order of the Garland County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her minor child, C.L. She argues that the circuit court erred in granting the termination-of-parental-rights petition because appellee Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to present sufficient evidence of the grounds for termination and that termination was in C.L.'s best interest.[2]We affirm.

         On January 21, 2016, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect, alleging that Garner's only child, C.L. (DOB 08/23/2012), was dependent-neglected as a result of "neglect and parental unfitness, specifically parental drug use, refusing access to the child, inadequate shelter and medical neglect." The affidavit attached to the petition alleged that on January 17, 2016, police responded to a call about Garner, who allegedly had been distributing methamphetamines with her child present. The affidavit also noted Garner's history with DHS; she had previously maltreated C.L., which resulted in a dependency-neglect case that opened in April 2014 and closed in September 2015. An emergency order was entered on January 21, 2016.

         On March 23, 2016, the circuit court adjudicated C.L. dependent-neglected based on clear and convincing evidence that C.L. was subjected to inadequate supervision due to Garner's illegal drug use and environmental neglect. Garner was ordered to comply with the case plan; view "The Clock is Ticking" video; cooperate and maintain contact with DHS; demonstrate improved parenting; submit to random drug screens; remain clean and sober; complete parenting classes; participate in individual counseling; obtain and maintain stable employment and housing; submit to a psychological evaluation and a drug-and-alcohol assessment and follow all recommendations; and attend AA/NA meetings a minimum of three times a week and provide proof of attendance to DHS.

         A review hearing was held on July 6, 2016. The order provided that returning custody of C.L. to Garner remained contrary to the child's welfare; DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide family services; Garner had minimally complied with the case plan; and visitation should remain supervised.

         After two continuances at Garner's request, the court conducted a permanency-planning hearing on January 11, 2017. The order provided that despite DHS's efforts, Garner had only partially complied with her case plan and had not corrected her drug addiction. The order noted that Garner had not remained clean and sober; had not submitted to counseling; had not followed all the recommendations based on her drug-and -alcohol assessment or psychological evaluation; and she had not submitted to inpatient-drug treatment. The court found that "the mother's unwillingness to go to treatment demonstrates that she places her own self and desires ahead of her daughter's."

         On February 8, 2017, DHS filed a petition for termination of Garner's parental rights to C.L. After the termination hearing, the circuit court entered its order on March 22, 2017, terminating Garner's parental rights. At the hearing, testimony revealed that while Garner did maintain stable housing and employment and attend all the hearings and weekly visitation almost regularly, she did not remain clean and sober; provide proof of attending AA or NA as instructed; attend an inpatient-treatment program; complete the hands-on parenting-instruction course; submit to individual counseling; or provide proof that she had watched "The Clock is Ticking" video. Throughout the case, Garner did stay in regular contact with her caseworker and did submit to a psychological evaluation, but she did not follow through with the recommendations.

         Testimony further established that Garner had not sufficiently addressed her substance-abuse issue. She was drug free approximately four months, but the psychological evaluation recommended that she have six months of sobriety and six months of stability on psychiatric medication.

         The court found that DHS had proved by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in C.L.'s best interest and was supported by the failure-to-remedy and subsequent-factors grounds. At the close of the hearing, the court orally found,

The last four months [Ashley] has been drug free and I applaud [her] on that. However, I disagree that she's dealing with her drug problem. . . . The disease is not being treated and that is a real concern that I have. . . . [C.L.] can't afford another relapse, not Ashley can't afford another relapse. . . . Ashley has had plenty of time- two different proceedings, two different cases-to prove to this court that she is ...

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