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Hooks v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

December 13, 2017

CRYSTAL HOOKS APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE MILLER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 46JV-15-80] HONORABLE KIRK DOUGLAS JOHNSON, JUDGE

          Dusti Standridge, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          Gruber, C.J., and Harrison, J., agree.

          BART F. VIRDEN, JUDGE

         The Miller County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights of appellant Crystal Hooks to her son, J.H. (DOB: 11-23-2013). She argues that the trial court erred (1) in terminating her parental rights because there was insufficient evidence of grounds and potential harm and (2) in permitting a Texas ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) home study to be introduced into evidence.

         I. Procedural History

         On April 17, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect on J.H. Attached to the petition was the affidavit of Chalonda Williamson, a family-service worker for DHS, in which she attested that on February 13, 2015, DHS had received an allegation of child maltreatment with regard to J.H. in that the child-abuse hotline had received a report of inadequate shelter for J.H. Specifically, the report indicated that then one-year-old J.H. was living with Hooks in the home of Hooks's mother and stepfather; that the home had no running water and no heat; that there were holes in the floor; that ten or more dogs lived in the home; that the home smelled horrible; and that Hooks's stepfather admitted smoking marijuana in the home. Williamson attested that the matter had been referred to the Differential Response (DR) Unit, which interviewed the family and found that a big tree had fallen onto the back side of the mobile home and that insulation from the ceiling was visible; that a hole in the bathroom floor had been covered with plywood; that a water line had broken; and that the family had no gas and used electric space heaters instead.

         The family relocated to Satterfield Lane in Texarkana, Arkansas, on March 13, 2015. On April 9, 2015, a DR specialist visited the new address to assess the safety of the home. The specialist noted that Hooks's mother, Rebecca Lorance, had been hesitant to allow the specialist and family-service worker inside the home; that Rebecca had said that one dog would bite but that she would hold onto that dog; that a couple of the dogs appeared to be "extremely malnourished"; that the home was cluttered to such an extent that they could not walk through the living room; that Hooks appeared with J.H., who was dirty and wearing a diaper that was full of urine and falling off of him; that the laundry room revealed clothes piled everywhere and feces on the floor and on the clothes; that the bedroom from which Hooks had emerged had a mattress on the floor with clothes and trash strewn around it; that, despite Rebecca's assurance, one of the dogs had attacked and tried to bite one of the workers; and that Hooks reported that the toilet in the home did not work. The affidavit went on to say that the DR referral had been converted back into an investigation.

         Williamson assessed the health and safety of J.H. on April 14, 2015, and observed that four or five dogs were outside the trailer home; that the home smelled strongly of dog urine and feces and mildew; that there was no sitting space in the living room, which contained boxes and trash bags; that at least four dogs lived inside the home and that two of them had recently given birth to puppies under the love seat; that Rebecca had said that she was unsure how many dogs they had; that J.H.'s body appeared to be small for his age, his head appeared large, and he made no noise; that the floors of the home appeared weak and sunken; that the carpet was so soiled that the worker was unsure of its original color; that there were wood blocks under the refrigerator but that the refrigerator was full of food; that the worker offered to assist Hooks in securing a shelter to prevent removal of J.H. but that Hooks "did not appear to want to leave the home"; and that Hooks cried and said that they had an open CPS case in Texas for the "same thing" and that her daughter, E.H., now lived with her biological father. Williamson further attested that there was a true finding of neglectful supervision against Hooks in 2010 concerning her then three-year-old daughter while they were living in Texas. Williamson noted that DHS put a seventy-two-hour hold on J.H.

         An ex parte order was entered, and the trial court later found probable cause existed for issuance of the order. On June 23, 2015, J.H. was adjudicated dependent-neglected due to Hooks's failure to provide for the essential and necessary physical, mental, or emotional needs of the juvenile, including failure to provide a shelter that did not pose a risk to the health or safety of the juvenile. The trial court ordered Hooks to submit to random drug screens, obtain a drug-and-alcohol assessment and complete any recommended treatment, participate in counseling and obtain a psychological evaluation if recommended, complete parenting classes, maintain safe and stable housing, and secure stable employment.

         On September 29, 2015, a review order was entered finding that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide the family with services and that Hooks had complied with the case plan. The goal was reunification with a concurrent goal of adoption. Another review order was entered on December 18, 2015, in which the trial court found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide services and that Hooks had complied with the case plan. A permanency-planning order was entered on March 29, 2016, in which the trial court again found that Hooks had complied with the case plan. The trial court noted that a trial placement would begin if Hooks's home was approved. The fifteen-month review hearing was continued because the results of an ICPC home study from Texas were pending. On August 31, 2016, the fifteen-month review order was entered in which the trial court found that the goal of reunification would continue because Hooks had been complying with the case plan and court orders, had made significant measurable progress, and had been diligently working toward reunification, which was expected to occur by November 16, 2016. On December 9, 2016, DHS filed a petition to terminate Hooks's parental rights. A review order was entered on December 16, 2016, finding that DHS had made reasonable efforts to provide family services and that Hooks had complied with the case plan. The trial court, however, scheduled a termination hearing, which was held on February 21, 2017.

         II. Termi ...


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