FROM THE CONWAY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 15JV-16-7]
HONORABLE TERRY SULLIVAN, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Burleson appeals the termination of her parental rights. She
argues that the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)
failed to prove at least one ground for termination and that
the termination was not in her children's best interest.
January 2016, DHS petitioned for emergency custody of M.B.,
T.R., and A.R. based on the affidavit of caseworker Tammy
Foster. The court found that a police officer had gone to the
Burleson home around 8:00 am on 13 January 2016. The front
door to the apartment was open, and Burleson, her husband,
A.R., and M.B. were sleeping. The officer said that the
parents "had no clue that the front door was open, that
[T.R.] was gone, or that the officer was inside of the
home." The family had an open Family in Need of Services
(FINS) case, and Burleson was arrested for failing to appear
for a court hearing related to T.R.'s school absences.
The home was filled with rotten food and was very dirty,
which was consistent with DHS's observations in its prior
involvement with the Burlesons. Burleson stipulated that
probable cause existed for the children's removal.
March 2016, the circuit court adjudicated the children
dependent-neglected because the "squalor in the home . .
. posed a danger to their health and safety" and because
Burleson tested positive for THC at the time of removal.
Burleson was ordered to submit to random drug screens,
complete parenting classes, obtain and maintain stable
housing and employment, attend counseling as recommended by
her counselor or therapist, submit to a psychological
evaluation and drug-and-alcohol assessment, resolve all
criminal issues, and cooperate with DHS and keep DHS notified
of new phone numbers and addresses.
court held a review hearing in July 2016 and found that
Burleson had minimally complied with the case plan and court
orders. It noted that Burleson had made three suicide
attempts since the case started. She had no housing, proof of
employment, had not started her psychological evaluation or
drug-and-alcohol assessment, and had attended counseling
sporadically. The court wrote that Burleson "denies drug
use despite positive drug tests, including laboratory
confirmed tests for meth." Burleson "completed her
parenting classes but is not demonstrating she has learned
anything." The court scheduled the next hearing as a
permanency-planning hearing because "there has been no
progress in the six months this case has been open."
Visitation was set at "the discretion of the custodian,
contingent on clean random drug screens . . . refusal to test
or failure to provide a sample adequate for testing shall be
considered a positive test."
permanency-planning order was entered in December 2016
authorizing a plan for adoption. DHS filed a petition for
termination of parental rights against Burleson, and a
termination hearing was held in April 2017.
called Brenda Dixon as its first witness. Dixon, a paramedic,
described two events in February 2017 in which she was called
to Burleson's residence for an emergency call. One
incident involved Burleson smelling of alcohol, being passed
out in the floor, and having trouble breathing. The other
event involved abdominal and chest pain.
Sarah Rion testified that she was assigned to the case three
months before the termination hearing. She said that the one
drug screen she had given Burleson was negative. She
testified that Burleson had participated in parenting classes
but had not completed them. Burleson was enrolled in
counseling, but she did not complete a psychological
evaluation until February 2017, more than one year after she
should have had it done. A drug-and-alcohol assessment was
also completed in February 2017. She reported that Burleson
said that she was employed at the Morrilton Drive Inn and at
Wendy's but did not have proof of either of those jobs.
According to Rion, Burleson was living at Station House
(government housing) with a male friend in a studio
apartment. She said that Burleson failed to contact DHS when
she moved to Marshall earlier in the year.
cross-examination, Rion admitted that she did not have
firsthand knowledge of Burleson's past move to Marshall.
When questioned by the court and parent counsel, Rion
explained that Burleson had not been offered visits with her
children since the permanency-planning hearing in October
2016. Upon further questioning, ...