FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-16-106] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant.
Appellant Chavi Stampley appeals the April 25, 2017 order of
the Pulaski County Circuit Court terminating her parental
rights to her children N.S. and H.A. 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) (2016), Chavi's
counsel has filed a no-merit brief and a motion to withdraw
alleging that there are no meritorious grounds for appeal.
The clerk of this court sent a certified packet to Chavi
notifying her of her right to file pro se points; Chavi has
filed no points. After a full examination under the proper
standards, we hold that counsel provided a compliant no-merit
brief demonstrating that an appeal would be wholly without
merit and that counsel's motion to be relieved should be
Stampley gave birth to N.S. on January 8, 2016. At the
hospital, Chavi displayed bizarre and irrational behavior
that caused the nurses to be concerned that Chavi may not be
able to care for a newborn at home. The record demonstrates
that, at that time, Chavi was fixated on excessively bathing
and lotioning the child, alternating between feeding the
child too much or too little, arguing with the medical staff
about treating the child for syphilis, refusing to answer
family medical-history questions, displaying emotional
volatility, and indicating a belief that someone would come
and take her baby away from her. Chavi's other child,
H.A., was staying with his father. H.A. was nine at the time
nurses contacted the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) about their concerns. DHS sent a caseworker to conduct
an interview with Chavi. The caseworker explained to Chavi
why she was there and attempted to ask Chavi some questions.
Chavi became resistant and left many of the caseworker's
questions unanswered. The caseworker attempted a second
contact with Chavi, but again Chavi resisted speaking with
the caseworker, left questions unanswered, and attempted to
record the meeting on her phone. The caseworker was concerned
about Chavi's mental stability and DHS exercised an
emergency hold on both N.S. and H.A.
February 1, 2016 probable-cause hearing, Chavi testified that
she was being falsely accused and that "every time [she]
has a child, someone makes a false report on her."
(Chavi testified she has nine children, but that some of them
were grown and others had been taken away from her back in
Minnesota.) She stated she did not need counseling or
medication. The court found probable cause and ordered Chavi
to submit to drug screens; a drug-and-alcohol assessment; a
psychological evaluation; counseling; and attend parenting
did not attend the March 14, 2016 adjudication hearing. The
trial court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected due
to parental unfitness based on Chavi's instability and
erratic behavior. Chavi was partially compliant at the July
13, 2016 review hearing but did not stay in contact with DHS
thereafter. At the January 11, 2017 permanency-planning
hearing, the court found Chavi had made no progress in the
case, and that she "shows up long enough to cause a
scene and disrupt proceedings while not following Court
directives." Chavi was found in contempt at that hearing
for repeatedly disrupting the proceedings. When being
admonished by the court, Chavi smiled and laughed. The court
changed the goal of the case to termination of parental
rights and adoption.
filed a petition to terminate parental rights on February 7,
2017, alleging the twelve-month-failure-to-remedy,
subsequent-factors, abandonment, and aggravated-circumstances
grounds. A termination hearing was held on April 5, 2017.
hearing, Chavi testified that she believed the Minnesota DHS
and her mother had conspired against her for money, that DHS
steals children for money, that DHS lies to gain custody of
other people's children, and that the hospital staff had
abused her baby. She testified that she was seeing her own
therapist (who she could only identify as "Allen"
and worked "off Cantrell") because she did not
trust the DHS therapist. Chavi said she did not trust the DHS
therapist "because they were trying to get me in there
to falsely diagnose me to fabricate some paperwork so that my
kids could be taken and I didn't want to fall for
caseworker testified that N.S. and H.A. were removed due to
Chavi's mental instability and erratic behavior at the
hospital, and since the beginning of the case Chavi has been
noncompliant. She testified that Chavi had completed
parenting classes and a psychological evaluation but had not
been to a single visitation with her children in almost a
year. The caseworker said that Chavi did not submit to a
drug-and-alcohol assessment and did not show up for drug
screens after the one positive test for marijuana early in
adoption specialist for DHS testified that both children are
adoptable. To reach this conclusion, she had entered their
characteristics in the matching tool database and found that,
for the children together, there were 144 matches.
Individually, N.S. had 382 matches and H.A. had 170.
trial court terminated Chavi's parental rights on all
grounds alleged in the petition in an order dated April 25,
2017. The trial court found that since the initial petition,
Chavi had tested positive for drugs, not stayed in contact
with DHS for random drug screens, not visited her children
since May 24, 2016, and failed to follow the case plan and
court orders. Chavi timely appeals.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). At least one statutory ground must
exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the
children's best interest to terminate parental rights;
these must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark.
Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3) (Repl. 2015); Mitchell v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430
S.W.3d 851. Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of
proof that will produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction
as to the allegation sought to be established. Brown v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 303, 521
S.W.3d 183. The appellate inquiry is whether the trial
court's finding that the disputed fact was proved by
clear and convincing evidence is ...