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Holloway v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

December 6, 2017

ROBIN HOLLOWAY AND NATHAN WARREN APPELLANTS
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE GREENE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 28JV-09-214] HONORABLE BARBARA HALSEY, JUDGE

          Tina Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant Robin Holloway.

          Dusti Standridge, for appellant Nathan Warren.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor child.

          DAVID M. GLOVER, JUDGE.

         Robin Holloway and Nathan Warren separately appeal from the termination of their parental rights to their daughter, E.W. They each challenge the trial court's statutory-grounds and best-interest findings. We affirm both terminations.

         E.W. was born on October 19, 2015. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) took a 72-hour hold on her because Robin already had an open dependency-neglect case concerning E.W.'s five halfsiblings. The other five children were in foster care, and E.W. was "added to the open case." The instant appeal deals only with E.W. By the time E.W. was born, Robin had been receiving services since March 13, 2014. During that time, Robin had not been able to achieve a trial placement or unsupervised visitation- much less reunification with the other five children. On October 26, 2015, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect. The verified affidavit detailed the long history of DHS with Robin and her other children, which began on April 19, 2007, and continued through the birth of E.W. The affidavit further provided that E.W.'s health and safety was in danger because of allegations involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, extreme neglect, and inadequate supervision. The trial court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody the same day.

         On November 4, 2015, the trial court entered a probable-cause order. Several continuances were granted by the trial court, and on April 7, 2016, Nathan filed a petition for acknowledgment of parental/legal rights and a petition for custody. The actual adjudication order was filed in open court on April 29, 2016, even though the trial court's letter opinion states that "[o]n February 12, 2016, [E.W.] was adjudicated dependent-neglected based upon the mother's failure to protect against a Level 3 sex offender, failure to comply with Court Orders in an open case on five (5) half-siblings who were also adjudicated dependent-neglected and having five (5) half-siblings remaining in foster care."

         On June 1, 2016, DHS filed its petition for termination of parental rights. The petition lists all six children as respondents, but as mentioned at the outset, the instant appeal deals only with the termination of Robin and Nathan's parental rights to E.W. On July 13, 2016, the trial court entered a review order that, apparently, was based on a May 10, 2016 hearing. On July 15, 2016, the trial court entered an agreed order of continuance on the petition to terminate regarding E.W., extending the date to September 29, 2016. On August 29, 2016, DHS filed a motion to change the termination hearing scheduled for

          September to a permanency-planning hearing, to continue the termination hearing to October 28, 2016, and to terminate reunification services for Robin Holloway and Notice of Hearing. The motion explained: "The grounds and supporting facts for recommending no reunification services are as follows: The mother, Robin Holloway, on August 18, 2016, had her parental rights involuntarily terminated to the siblings of [E.W.]."

         On August 29, 2016, DHS also filed its amended petition for termination of parental rights for E.W. Several continuances were granted, and on January 31, 2017, DHS filed another petition for termination of parental rights. Finally, on March 6, 2017, and continued on March 27, 2017, the termination hearing was held. On May 5, 2017, the trial court prepared a letter opinion, filed the same date, and on May 15, 2017, the order terminating Robin and Nathan's parental rights was entered. These appeals followed.

         We review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo. Hudson v. Arkansas Dep't of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 629, __S.W.3d __. Our inquiry is whether the trial 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, on the entire evidence, we are left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. Id. We give a high degree of deference to the trial court, as it is in a far superior position to observe the parties before it and judge the credibility of the witnesses. Id. The termination-of-parental-rights analysis is twofold, requiring the trial court to find that a parent is unfit and that termination is in the best interest of the child. Id. The first step requires proof of one or more of the nine enumerated statutory grounds for termination.

         Id.; Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(B) (Repl. 2015). The best-interest determination must consider the likelihood that the child will be adopted and the potential harm caused by returning custody of the child to the parent. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(b)(3)(A). The trial court, however, does not have to determine that every factor considered be established by clear and convincing evidence. Hudson, supra. Instead, after considering all ...


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