FROM THE SEBASTIAN C O U NT Y C IRC U IT C O U R T, FORT
SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66JV-15-442] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER,
D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Bret D. Watson, for
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
LARRYD. VAUGHT, Judge
Blasingame appeals the Sebastian County Circuit Court's
termination of his parental rights to his three minor
children, A.B., I.B., and R.B. On appeal, he argues that
there was insufficient evidence to support any statutory
ground for termination, termination was not in the
children's best interest, and the court failed to enter a
timely order. We affirm.
numerous investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect
dating back to 2011, the Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) removed Blasingame's three children in
September 2015 because their mother was high on drugs and
fled the home when police arrived. The case proceeded in the
normal fashion, and Blasingame was ordered to comply with the
case plan, which required that he maintain stable and
appropriate housing, income, and transportation; complete
parenting classes; complete drug, alcohol, and psychological
assessments and all recommended treatment; submit to drug
screens as required by DHS; and visit his children regularly.
He was also ordered to complete domestic-violence classes.
evidence presented at the termination hearing demonstrated
that Blasingame failed to complete outpatient treatment or
marital counseling; failed to attend domestic-violence
classes; and continued a pattern of criminal behavior
throughout the case, resulting in multiple arrests for
battery, trespass, and violation of his probation. Blasingame
testified that he had been arrested six times during the
pendency of this case. Blasingame also failed to maintain
stable and appropriate housing and employment; he was evicted
during the case. At the time of the termination hearing,
Blasingame testified that he was currently living in a
one-bedroom trailer and was hoping to soon move in with a
friend, but he acknowledged that the friend's home would
not be appropriate for the children.
children went through numerous foster placements during the
case. At one point, they were placed with their aunt and
uncle, Justin Voight, who testified at the hearing. Voight
testified that Blasingame's phone visitation with the
children did not go well and that Blasingame had threatened
to have Voight killed after they had a disagreement about
phone visitation. The caseworkers testified that the children
were currently placed together in a therapeutic foster home
and that the foster parents were interested in adoption.
Caseworkers testified that there was no reason to believe the
children would not be adopted.
claimed that he was unable to comply with many of the
case-plan requirements because he lacked transportation, but
his caseworker testified that she had provided him with a
six-month supply of bus passes and had personally provided
the family with transportation on many occasions. Blasingame
also presented evidence that he had made some progress in the
case recently. He was doing odd jobs, although it was not
stable income and wasn't sufficient to support the
children. He had completed parenting classes, a
drug-and-alcohol assessment, and a psychological assessment.
However, the circuit court found that this progress was
insufficient given his continued instability, failure to
follow the case plan, and numerous arrests and violent
offenses. At the end of the February 2017 hearing, the court
granted the petition to terminate Blasingame's parental
rights, although it did not issue the written order until
June. In its written order, the court found that termination
was appropriate under three statutory grounds: (1) failure to
remedy, (2) subsequent factors, and (3) aggravated
circumstances (little likelihood that further services would
result in successful reunification). The court also found
that termination was in the children's best interest.
Specifically, the court found that the children were
adoptable and, alternatively, that if not adoptable,
adoptability was of no legal significance because the risk of
harm posed by returning them to their parents outweighed any
concerns about their adoptability.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 344 Ark.
207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001). At least one statutory ground must
exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the child's
best interest to terminate parental rights; these must be
proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-27-341 (Supp. 2017); M.T. v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 58 Ark.App. 302, 952 S.W.2d 177 (1997).
Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof that
will produce in the fact-finder a firm conviction as to the
allegation sought to be established. Anderson v.
Douglas, 310 Ark. 633, 839 S.W.2d 196 (1992). The
appellate inquiry is whether the circuit court's finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997);
Tucker v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2011
Ark.App. 430, 389 S.W.3d 1; Pine v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 2010 Ark.App. 781, 379 S.W.3d 703.
Credibility determinations are left to the fact-finder.
Moiser v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 95
Ark.App. 32, 233 S.W.3d 172 (2006).
intent behind the termination-of-parental-rights statute is
to provide permanency in a child's life when it is not
possible to return the child to the family home because it is
contrary to the child's health, safety, or welfare, and a
return to the family home cannot be accomplished in a
reasonable period of time as viewed from the child's
perspective. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-341(a)(3). Even full
compliance with the case plan is not determinative; the issue
is whether the parent has become a stable, safe parent able
to care for his or her child. Camarillo-Cox v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 360 Ark. 340, 201 S.W.3d 391
(2005); Cole v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2012
Ark.App. 203, 394 S.W.3d 318. A parent's past behavior is
often a good indicator of future behavior. Stephens v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 249, 427
S.W.3d 160. Termination of parental rights is an extreme
remedy and in derogation of a parent's natural rights;
however, parental rights will not be enforced to the
detriment or destruction of the health and well-being of the
child. Pine, supra.
standard of review in appeals of termination of parental
rights is de novo, but we reverse a circuit court's
decision to terminate parental rights only when it is clearly
erroneous. Ullom v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
340 Ark. 615, 12 S.W.3d 204 (2000); Mitchell v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d
851; Brewer v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 71
Ark.App. 364, 43 S.W.3d 196 (2001). A finding is clearly
erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the
reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a
distinct and firm conviction that a mistake was ...