FROM THE GREENE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 28JV-14-40]
HONORABLE BARBARA HALSEY, 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.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge.
Brown appeals after the Greene County Circuit Court filed an
order terminating his parental rights to A.G. (DOB
12-29-2014). On appeal, appellant argues that the trial
court erred in terminating his parental rights because (1)
the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to
establish that he is A.G.'s parent and (2) there was
insufficient evidence to prove the statutory grounds for
termination. We affirm.
November 9, 2015, DHS filed a petition for ex parte emergency
custody and dependency-neglect. In the affidavit attached to
the petition, DHS stated that A.G. was removed from her
mother's care and a seventy-two-hour hold was taken
because there was a substantial risk of harm to the child. It
was determined that Kelli Greenway, A.G.'s mother, was
unstable, provided inadequate supervision, and tested
positive for illegal drugs. The trial court granted the
petition, finding that probable cause existed for the
removal. Subsequently, the trial court filed a probable-cause
appellant alleges herein that the trial court erred in
finding he is A.G.'s parent, a chronological review of
the facts and procedure as they pertain to appellant is
December 16, 2015, the adjudication hearing was held, and
appellant appeared. The trial court found that the child was
dependent-neglected. The trial court specifically found that
"Brown, the putative father, HAS NOT presented evidence
proving that he has established significant contacts with the
juvenile and putative parent rights HAVE NOT attached."
The trial court further found that appellant, the
noncustodial parent, was not fit for purposes of custody
because he was incarcerated in the Greene County jail and had
no stable housing. The trial court set the goal of the case
April 4, 2016, a review hearing was held. While appellant did
not appear, DHS did present evidence that appellant did not
have a stable home or stable income. The trial court
instructed DHS to add appellant as a party, issue a summons,
and effectuate service.
April 29, 2016, another review hearing was held, and
appellant again did not appear. The corresponding
order from this hearing states in paragraph 3,
"A case plan and DNA results as to D'Andre Brown
were also entered into evidence. Brown does not have a stable
home or income." Paragraph 9 of the order states,
"Based on the results of the DNA testing, D'Andre
Brown shall be made a party to the case. DHS shall cause
summons to be issued and served."
on September 14, 2016, DHS filed an amended petition for
emergency custody and dependency-neglect and issued a summons
to appellant. In this amended petition, DHS added appellant
as a party and alleged therein that appellant is the putative
father of A.G. DHS stated in its petition that it did not
have an address for appellant and requested the trial court
to "direct appropriate measures to find and give notice
to this person."
October 14, 2016, a permanency-planning hearing was held, and
appellant did not appear. In the resulting order, appellant
was named in the style of the case as A.G.'s "LEGAL
FATHER." The trial court found that DHS had made
reasonable efforts to finalize a permanency plan and that the
parents had not complied with the orders of the court. The
trial court changed the goal of the case to
"[a]uthorizing a plan for adoption with the department
filing a petition for termination of parental rights and
completing adoption packets."
November 10, 2016, DHS filed a petition to terminate parental
rights against both parents. Subsequently, on February 7,
2017, a hearing on the petition to terminate was held.
Appellant did appear at this hearing. However, the court
found that the "Father is indigent" and that an
attorney was appointed to represent him. Having so found, the
hearing to terminate the parental rights of both parents was
March 10, 2017, the hearing to terminate the parental rights
of the parents was held. The parental rights of the mother
were terminated. However, the court found that
"[b]ecause of a successful challenge to service
regarding the father, the court finds that the father is not
yet a party to this matter." The termination hearing for
appellant was continued. Thereafter, DHS served the petition
to terminate to appellant by an appropriate warning order.
30, 2017, the termination hearing was held for appellant.
Appellant appeared in person and by his court-appointed
counsel. At the commencement of the hearing, the following
colloquy occurred between the court and appellant's
The Court: Will you find that review order of September 21st
that makes a reference to Mr. Brown's legal status?
[Counsel]: Yes, Your Honor.
The Court: So that we can clarify that for this proceeding.
[Counsel]: That's right, Your Honor. There was a question
as to the legal status of Mr. Brown under the review order
filed September 21st, 2016, paragraph 9. It says based on the
results of the DNA testing, D'Andre Brown shall be made a
party to the case. DHS shall cause summons to be issued and
The Court: All right. The petition, which was filed later,
names him as the legal father and rightly so. The Court did
not specifically say I was making him legal father on
September 21st, '16, but, in fact, that's what I was
doing. And the resulting actions were because of that. So the
record today should be clear. On September 21st, 2016, I made
him the legal father, and I think we all understood that.
. . . .
The Court: [Appellant], earlier, you made reference to a