FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-16-17] HONORABLE ANNIE POWELL HENDRICKS, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
an appeal from the order entered on June 26, 2017, by the
Sebastian County Circuit Court terminating the parental
rights of appellant Tara Lazaravage to her daughter GL, born
in January 2016. Tara presents two points on appeal,
asserting that the trial court committed reversible error (1)
by not requiring compliance with the notice provisions of the
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and (2) by clearly erring in
finding that the Department of Human Services (DHS) proved
any of the three alleged statutory grounds to support
terminating her parental rights. We affirm.
termination of parental rights involves a two-step process in
which the trial court must find that the parent is unfit and
that termination is in the child's best interest.
Brabon v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2012
Ark.App. 2, 388 S.W.3d 69. An order terminating parental
rights must be based on clear and convincing evidence, i.e.,
proof that will produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction
as to the verity of the allegation sought to be established.
Hamman v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2014
Ark.App. 295, 435 S.W.3d 495. On appeal, the issue before us
is whether the trial court's finding that the fact was
proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly erroneous.
Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when the
appellate court is, on the entire evidence, left with a
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.
Id. In deciding whether a trial court's finding
is clearly erroneous, we give great deference to its superior
opportunity to observe the parties and to judge the
credibility of witnesses. Id.
alleged three statutory grounds against Tara to support
terminating her parental rights: (1) the "failure to
remedy" ground, Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(a)(Supp. 2017); (2) the
"aggravated circumstances" ground, Arkansas Code
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(ix)(a)(3); and (3) the
"subsequent other factors or issues" ground,
Arkansas Code Annotated section
9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(vii)(a). Tara challenges the trial
court's finding that clear and convincing evidence
supported any of these three grounds, although only one
ground is necessary to sustain an order terminating parental
rights. Vail v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2016
Ark.App. 150, 486 S.W.3d 229.
determining the best interest of the juvenile, a trial court
must take into consideration (1) the likelihood that the
juvenile will be adopted if the termination petition is
granted; and (2) the potential harm, specifically addressing
the effect on the health and safety of the child, caused by
returning the child to the custody of the parent. Myers
v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2011 Ark.
182, 380 S.W.3d 906. Tara does not contest the trial
court's "best interest" finding.
these legal principles in mind, we examine the evidence
presented in this case. GL was brought into emergency DHS
custody shortly after her birth in January 2016, based on
allegations that Tara was acting erratically, exhibiting
dramatic mood swings, and making statements about hurting GL.
Tara had tested positive for amphetamines, and hospital staff
thought she was in psychosis. GL tested positive for
methamphetamine at birth. Tara admitted that she was
essentially homeless, having lived in a tent city and various
people's homes prior to giving birth to GL. She
identified two men as possibly being GL's father, one of
whom she accused of domestic violence.
probable-cause order was entered in January 2016. DHS was
ordered to provide Tara with twice-weekly supervised
visitation with GL and also to develop an appropriate case
plan. The probable-cause order recited that Tara indicated
that it was "possible" that she or GL might be of
Indian heritage. The probable-cause order then provided as
[Tara] is to provide [DHS] with complete names, maiden names
and dates of relatives/ancestors who are members of or
eligible for membership in an Indian Tribe. [DHS] has
provided the mother with a "family tree" form in
open court. She may use this form or otherwise convey the
requested information to [DHS], but she is to do so
forthwith. Upon receipt of information that allows it to
give meaningful notice, [DHS] is to give notice in compliance
adjudication order was entered in March 2016 finding that GL
was a dependent- neglected child. The trial court found Tara
to be an unfit parent due to her mental-health issues that
threatened both Tara's and GL's safety and due to her
drug use during pregnancy. A case plan was developed to
assist Tara in rehabilitating the situation so that she could
properly parent GL in a safe, stable environment.
matter was reviewed in July 2016. At that time, the trial
court found that DHS had made reasonable efforts to assist
Tara in her quest to have GL returned to her custody. Tara,
however, was deemed noncompliant. She failed to obtain
housing or employment. She did not complete parenting
classes, nor did she submit to a psychological or
drug-and-alcohol assessment. She tested positive for drugs,
and she had been arrested more than once during this review
period. Neither of the putative fathers had submitted to DNA
testing, and both had ...