FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-15-1689] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE.
Standridge, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
F. VIRDEN, JUDGE.
Pulaski County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights
of appellant Monica Marion to her two sons, M.M. (DOB:
12-26-2001), and J.L. (DOB: 3-3-2004). Counsel filed a 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), along with a motion to
withdraw on the basis that there is no merit to this appeal.
Marion was notified that she could file pro se points for
reversal, and she took the opportunity to file such points.
We affirm the termination and grant counsel's motion to
Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)(1) allows counsel for an appellant
in a termination-of-parental-rights case to file a no-merit
petition and motion to withdraw if, after studying the record
and researching the law, counsel determines that the
appellant has no meritorious basis for an appeal. The
petition must include an argument section that lists all
adverse rulings to the appellant made by the circuit court on
all objections, motions, and requests made by the party at
the hearing from which the appeal arose and explain why each
adverse ruling is not a meritorious ground for reversal. Ark.
Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1)(A). The petition's abstract and
addendum shall contain all rulings adverse to the appellant
made by the circuit court at the hearing from which the order
on appeal arose. Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-9(i)(1)(B). Here, the
only adverse ruling was the termination itself.
Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition
for emergency custody and dependency-neglect alleging neglect
and parental unfitness. Attached to the petition was an
affidavit by a DHS family-service worker who attested that in
early November 2015 DHS had received a report that M.M. and
J.L. were residing at the Salvation Army with Marion; that
Marion had locked her sons out of their room at the shelter
one night for twenty minutes; that M.M. and J.L. had told
investigators that Marion "needs mental help"
because she talks to herself, does not take baths, and will
not wash their clothes; that Marion had received a check for
$1, 466 a few days prior and that she had spent all of it;
and that Marion had tested positive for THC. DHS subsequently
learned that Marion was being removed from the shelter and
thus exercised a seventy-two-hour hold on the boys on
December 7, 2015. An ex parte order for emergency custody was
entered, and Marion later stipulated to probable cause. The
children were adjudicated dependent-neglected based on
neglect and parental unfitness. DHS was ordered to provide
services to the family. A review order was entered finding
that Marion was not in compliance with the case plan and
court orders. In its permanency-planning order, the trial
court again found that Marion was not in compliance, and the
goal of the case was changed to adoption and termination of
parental rights. DHS filed a petition to terminate
Marion's parental rights. Following a hearing on February
1, 2017, the trial court found that DHS had proved three
grounds as alleged in its petition, including Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (twelve-month failure
to remedy), 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii) (subsequent factors), and
order forever terminating parental rights shall be based on a
finding by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the
best interest of the juvenile, including consideration of
(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) (Supp. 2015). The order must also find by clear and
convincing evidence one or more grounds listed in section
agree with counsel that the only adverse ruling was the
termination itself. Counsel addresses adoptability and
potential harm, and after noting that only one ground is
necessary to support termination of parental rights, counsel
discusses the subsequent-factors ground. Although we find
that counsel complied with Rule 6-9(i), we think a stronger
case could be made under either of the other two grounds.
boys were removed from Marion's custody on December 7,
2015, and at the time of the termination hearing had been out
of her custody for approximately fourteen months. They were
removed from Marion's custody due to her instability,
drug use, untreated mental-health issues, neglect, and
parental unfitness. She was offered many services, including
random drug screens, a drug-and-alcohol assessment,
counseling, a psychological evaluation, and parenting
classes, and she was ordered to maintain stable
housing/employment/income and to keep DHS informed of her
contact information. Marion submitted to only one random drug
screen, and she did not submit to the hair-follicle test
until almost a year after the case had been opened. She did
not obtain a drug-and-alcohol assessment or a psychological
evaluation. She attended a counseling session about one month
before the termination hearing. She claims to have completed
parenting classes but did so before this case was opened
because people "kept calling DHS on her." Marion
was homeless at the beginning of the case and was still
homeless at the time of the termination hearing. ...