FROM THE POPE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 58JV-15-251]
HONORABLE KEN D. COKER, JR., JUDGE.
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE.
for Crystal Griffin brings this no-merit appeal from the Pope
County Circuit Court's order entered on May 9, 2017,
terminating her parental rights to LB, born April 5, 2014,
and NB, born September 3, 2015. 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),
counsel has filed a no-merit brief setting forth all adverse
rulings from the termination hearing and asserting that there
are no issues that would support a meritorious appeal; the
sole adverse ruling was the termination. Counsel has also
filed a motion asking to be relieved. The clerk of this court
sent a copy of the brief and motion to be relieved to
appellant's last-known address, informing her that she
had the right to file pro se points for reversal under
Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i)(3). She has filed no
points. We grant counsel's motion to withdraw and affirm
the order terminating appellant's parental rights.
of parental rights is a two-step process requiring a
determination that the parent is unfit and that termination
is in the best interest of the child. Houseman v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 227, at 2, 491
S.W.3d 153, 155. The first step requires proof of one or more
statutory grounds for termination; the second step, the
best-interest analysis, includes consideration of the
likelihood that the juvenile will be adopted and of the
potential harm caused by returning custody of the child to
the parent. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B), (A)
(Repl. 2015). Each of these requires proof by clear and
convincing evidence, which is the degree of proof that will
produce in the finder of fact a firm conviction regarding the
allegation sought to be established. Id. Our review
is de novo. Dunbar v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 472, at 9, 503 S.W.3d 821, 827.
The appellate inquiry is whether the circuit court's
finding that the disputed fact was proved by clear and
convincing evidence is clearly erroneous. Id. 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. Norton v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
2017 Ark.App. 285, at 2. In resolving the clearly erroneous
question, the reviewing court defers to the circuit court
because of its superior opportunity to observe the parties
and to judge the credibility of witnesses. Brumley v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2015 Ark. 356, at 7.
children were taken into custody by the Arkansas Department
of Human Services (DHS) on December 1, 2015, after having
been brought to the hospital on the evening of November 30,
2015, with significant bruising to their genitals. NB also
had a compression fracture of the lumbar spine and a skin
injury to the tip of his nose. Appellant told police that she
took Klonopin and Tylenol 3 before she went to bed at 8:00
p.m. on November 29, 2015, and left the children in the
living room with her boyfriend. She reported that she
"heard a slap and the children whimpering through the
night" but that she did not get up to check on them.
Appellant indicated that she had observed the children's
injuries on the morning of November 30, 2015, but did not
seek medical attention until her brother intervened on the
evening of November 30, 2015. Appellant submitted to a drug
test on December 2, 2015, and tested positive for
methamphetamine, amphetamines, oxycodone, opiates,
benzodiazepine, and THC.
circuit court adjudicated the children dependent-neglected in
an order entered January 11, 2016, due to parental unfitness
because of appellant's drug use. In addition, the court
found that the children were at a substantial risk of serious
harm due to appellant's drug use and her failure to
protect the children from abuse. At a review hearing six
months after the case had begun, the court found that
reunification should remain the goal but ordered appellant to
successfully complete inpatient drug treatment and to keep
DHS informed of her location. Although appellant was
incarcerated from June 2016 through October 2016, she
completed inpatient drug treatment in November 2016. At the
first permanency-planning hearing on November 28, 2016, the
court continued the goal of reunification, noting that
appellant was complying with the case plan and had made
significant and measurable progress. At a permanency-planning
hearing held two months later, however, the court changed the
goal to termination and adoption.
caseworker, Milissa Ennis, testified at the termination
hearing held on April 24, 2017, that appellant had not
maintained stable and appropriate housing as ordered and was
living with her parents at the time of the hearing. She also
testified that, although appellant had completed inpatient
treatment in November 2016, she had tested positive for
amphetamines and methamphetamine multiple times since then,
the most recent being March 14 and 28, 2017. Finally, Ms.
Ennis testified that she had attended only 25 of 55 scheduled
visits with her children during the sixteen months they had
been out of her custody. Ms. Ennis testified that the
children had no medical or behavioral issues that would
prevent their being adopted and that they were very likely to
circuit court entered an order on May 9, 2017, terminating
appellant's parental rights, finding by clear and
convincing evidence the twelve-month-failure-to-remedy,
subsequent-factors grounds. The court also found that it was
in the children's best interest to terminate
appellant's parental rights after considering both the
likelihood of adoption and the potential harm to their health
and safety by returning them to appellant. The court
specifically found that appellant continued to have an
unresolved drug problem, had no stable housing, and failed to
visit the children on a consistent basis.
one ground must be proved to support termination. Reid v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2011 Ark. 187, 380
S.W.3d 918. Here, the children had been adjudicated
dependent-neglected due to parental unfitness because of
appellant's drug use and were in DHS custody for over
twelve months. Evidence at the hearing demonstrated that
appellant had failed to resolve the drug problem, the
condition that caused removal, even after having completed
inpatient drug treatment. We agree with counsel that there is
no meritorious basis upon which to argue that the circuit
court's decision to terminate appellant's parental
rights was clearly erroneous. As counsel notes, this was the
sole adverse ruling from the termination hearing.
our review of the record and the brief presented to us, we
conclude that counsel has complied with the requirements for
no-merit appeals and that the appeal is wholly without merit.
Accordingly, we affirm the termination order and grant
counsel's motion to withdraw.