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Jacobs v. Arkansas Department of Human Services and Minor Children

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

November 8, 2017

CORA JACOBS APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66FJV-15-299] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE

          Leah Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Jerald A. Sharum, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge.

         Cora Jacobs appeals the Sebastian County Circuit Court order terminating her parental rights to her children, J.H., R.H., and Z.H. On appeal, she argues that the circuit court erred in finding it was in the children's best interest to terminate her parental rights. We affirm.

         On May 2, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency neglect of J.H., R.H., and Z.H. The affidavit attached to the petition stated that police had responded to a domestic-disturbance call at the residence where Jacobs was staying with the children and then called DHS because the home was inappropriate for the children and Jacobs appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. When the DHS worker arrived, Jacobs admitted that she had used methamphetamine two days earlier but denied being under the influence of any substance at that time. The affidavit further reported that DHS had opened a protective-services case with Jacobs in 2014 because Jacobs had tested positive for methamphetamine during her pregnancy with R.H., and R.H. had tested positive for marijuana at birth. In the 2014 case, DHS offered Jacobs services in the form of housing, food banks, transportation, parenting classes, a drug-and-alcohol assessment, utility assistance, and vouchers to be used at furniture and clothing outlets. However, she refused to complete the drug-and-alcohol assessment, continued to test positive for marijuana, and evaded DHS. On the same day the May 2015 emergency petition was filed, the circuit court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody.

         On May 12, 2015, the court entered a probable-cause order. On July 2, 2015, the court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected as a result of Jacobs's drug-and-alcohol abuse. The court set the goal of the case as reunification and ordered Jacobs to obtain and maintain stable housing, income, and transportation; comply with a psychological evaluation and a drug-and-alcohol assessment; submit to random drug screens; complete domestic-violence classes; and resolve all criminal charges.

         On January 5, 2016, the court entered a review order. The court found that DHS had not made reasonable efforts to provide family services. The court continued the goal of reunification and authorized DHS to arrange appropriate visitation. The court found that Jacobs had partially complied with the case plan by completing a drug-and-alcohol assessment, inpatient drug treatment, and parenting classes and submitting to drug screens. However, the court found that she did not have housing or transportation.

         On April 28, 2016, the court held a permanency-planning hearing. The court found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide family services. The court further found that Jacobs had only partially complied with the case plan. Specifically, the court noted that she did not have housing or transportation and had failed to complete the psychological evaluation, domestic-violence classes, and outpatient-drug treatment. The court authorized DHS to increase visitation at its discretion, and it continued the goal of the case as reunification.

         On August 8, 2016, the court entered a fifteen-month review order. The court noted that Jacobs had found housing, although it was not stable or independent. The court found that Jacobs had also completed an inpatient-drug-treatment program but that she had not completed outpatient-drug treatment and was in need of a new drug-and-alcohol assessment. The court ordered DHS to refer her for an assessment. The court noted that she had completed the psychological evaluation and ordered DHS to provide referrals for the services recommended in the evaluation. On September 9, 2016, the court entered an amended fifteen-month review order to withhold a reasonable-efforts finding.

         On September 12, 2016, the court entered a sixteen-month review order. The court noted that Jacobs had been arrested for domestic battery on July 26, 2016. The court found that Jacobs had complied with the case plan and that she had "been candid about her illicit drug use." The court noted that DHS had provided Jacobs with a second referral for a drug-and-alcohol assessment, and it made a reasonable-efforts finding.

         On October 26, 2016, DHS filed a petition for termination of Jacobs's parental rights. DHS alleged three statutory grounds: (1) the failure-to-remedy ground, [1] (2) the subsequent-factors ground, [2] and (3) the aggravated-circumstances ground.[3] The court held a termination hearing on January 19, 2017.

         At the hearing, Jacobs testified about her first encounter with DHS at R.H.'s birth in 2014. She explained that both she and R.H. had tested positive for THC and that DHS had offered her parenting classes and outpatient-drug treatment at that time. As to the current case, Jacobs explained that she completed inpatient-drug treatment in November 2015and had been sober until March 2016 but that she relapsed after she took pain medicine for a work injury. She further admitted that she had used amphetamines in the summer of 2016and THC in November 2016. She explained that after she had relapsed, DHS took almost four months to refer her for a second inpatient program. She received outpatient assistance until she obtained a second inpatient referral. She testified that she completed the second inpatient program on January 16, 2017, and that DHS had made a referral for a twelve-week outpatient program. She ...


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