FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, ELEVENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-16-295] HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
J. GLADWIN, JUDGE.
Candace Solee appeals the May 9, 2017 order of the Pulaski
County Circuit Court terminating her rights to five of her
six children. Appellant's sole challenge on appeal is to
the evidence supporting the trial court's best-interest
finding demonstrating the likelihood of adoption. We affirm.
case began on February 26, 2016, after a truancy hearing for
L.A. and T.S., then ages nine and thirteen, respectively,
resulted in the trial court's placing a hold on the
children. Appellee Arkansas Department of Human Services
(ADHS) then took custody of appellant's four additional
children, M.A., Z.S. (M), Z.S. (F), and K.M., ages seven,
five, four and two, respectively, based on ADHS's
assessment that appellant was unable to parent her children
effectively or appropriately, specifically regarding issues
of parental unfitness based on educational neglect and drug
use. ADHS had opened a protective-services (PS) case on
appellant's family in October 2015 because of a true
finding of environmental and educational neglect that
followed two previous cases between 2009 and 2011.
trial court granted an order for emergency custody, and on
April 20, 2016, the children were adjudicated
dependent-neglected through a stipulation that appellant had
subjected them to educational neglect and parental unfitness
based on truancy and exposing the children to drugs. The
trial court found that the children had "vast, different
needs" resulting from the children being "left to
fend for themselves" and that appellant had to "get
a handle on her drug addiction" and engage in
"intensive hands-on parenting" during the case.
a few weeks, the attorney ad litem filed a motion to modify
appellant's visitation because L.A., M.A., and Z.S. (M)
were "oppositional and defiant in their behaviors, and
require[d] at least two [Division of Children and Family
Services (DCFS)] staff members to transport them to visits in
Little Rock." The ad litem explained that transporting
the children created a risk of harm for both the DCFS staff
and the children because the children were at risk of
elopement. The ad litem further suggested that Z.S. (M)
needed visits by himself with appellant because he would
become "out of control" if he did not receive
one-on-one attention from her. The trial court granted the ad
litem's motion, requiring appellant to cooperate with
DCFS in scheduling trips for visitation in the counties where
the children resided and to adjust her work schedule to
accommodate the separate visitations set up for her with her
first review hearing on August 10, 2016, appellant testified
that she had worked at Fresh Market almost full time since
March. She was trying to balance work with all her case-plan
requirements, and she acknowledged that she had been arrested
at a staffing for possession of marijuana-although she said
it belonged to her sister. Appellant stated that she was
attending outpatient drug-treatment therapy and learning
coping skills through therapy. The caseworker also testified,
saying that L.A. had had several placements since the
previous hearing, that he was destructive, and that he was
about to be considered a treatment failure. M.A. had also
been suspended from school. Appellant was visiting with the
children separately according to the modified schedule.
permanency-planning hearing on February 6, 2017, one year
after the case had opened, the trial court changed the goal
of five of the children to adoption, with Z.S. (M)'s goal
being changed to permanent placement with his father. The
trial court stated that it believed appellant was
"playing games" with the drug screens because she
had been negative on urine screens and positive on
filed a termination-of-parental-rights (TPR) petition on
February 22, 2017, alleging that TPR was in the best interest
of all the children except for Z.S. (M), that the children
could find permanency through adoption, that appellant was
unfit because she had failed to remedy the issues that caused
removal, as well as other issues that had arisen subsequent
to the filing of the initial petition, and that further
services would likely not result in reunification.
trial court held a hearing on the TPR petition on April 19,
2017. Multiple witnesses testified, but with respect to the
issue on appeal, Jessica Warren, the adoption specialist for
ADHS, testified that the children had a "potential"
for adoption. She based her opinion on the data-match system
at ADHS that takes into consideration certain characteristics
of the children. She did not include Z.S. (M) in the system
because he was going to be placed in the permanent custody of
his father. Ms. Warren did not specifically discuss the
likelihood of adoption-just that there were no factors that