FROM THE CLAY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT [NO.
11PJV-16-1] HONORABLE MELISSA BRISTOW RICHARDSON, JUDGE
Goodwin Jones, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.
Danielle Knight appeals from the order of the Clay County
Circuit Court that terminated her parental rights to her son,
S.L. On appeal, she challenges the circuit court's
finding as to one of the two statutory grounds for
termination; in addition, she argues that the circuit court
erred in its finding of potential harm to the child if
custody were returned to her. For the reasons set forth
below, we affirm.
January 6, 2016, Knight was arrested following a search of
her house that revealed methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia,
weapons, and an active pipe bomb. S.L. was present in the
home at the time of the arrest. The Arkansas Department of
Human Services (DHS) took custody of S.L. based on this
arrest and because there was no other caretaker for S.L. at
the time. S.L. was adjudicated dependent-neglected
approximately a month later based on Knight's parental
unfitness due to drug use.
adjudication, the circuit court found that Knight had only
partially complied with the case plan. The court found that
Knight had not remained drug free. Specifically, she tested
positive for methamphetamine in May 2016, failed to submit to
drug testing in December 2016, and tested positive again for
drugs in January 2017. The court further found that Knight
did not obtain and maintain stable employment throughout the
course of the proceedings, and she failed to submit to a
psychological evaluation. Additionally, the court found that
Knight had pled guilty to drug charges. The court accordingly
authorized DHS to file a petition for termination of parental
filed a petition to terminate Knight's parental rights
alleging, as statutory grounds for termination, twelve months
failure to remedy, see Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a) (Repl. 2015), and subsequent
other factors, see Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a). After a hearing, the circuit
court entered an order finding that DHS had proved both
grounds and that termination of Knight's parental rights
was in S.L.'s best interest. Knight filed a timely notice
of appeal from that order and now argues that the circuit
court erred in finding that DHS proved the "failure to
remedy" ground and in finding that S.L. would be at risk
of potential harm if returned to her custody.
Standard of Review
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo but will
not reverse the circuit court's ruling unless its
findings are clearly erroneous. Dade v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 443, 503 S.W.3d 96. 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. In determining whether a finding is
clearly erroneous, we have noted that in matters involving
the welfare of young children, we will give great weight to
the circuit court's personal observations. Jackson v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 440, 503
termination of parental rights is an extreme remedy and in
derogation of the natural rights of the parents. Fox v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2014 Ark.App. 666, 448
S.W.3d 735. As a result, there is a heavy burden placed on
the party seeking to terminate the relationship. Id.
The termination of parental rights is a two-step process that
requires the circuit court to find that the parent is unfit
and that termination is in the best interest of the child.
T.J. v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 329 Ark.
243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997); Smith v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 753, 431 S.W.3d 364. The
first step requires proof of one or more of the statutory
grounds for termination. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-27-341(b)(3)(B). The second step requires consideration of
whether the termination of parental rights is in the
child's best interest. Ark. Code Ann. §